TIME Friendship

5 Ways to Celebrate ‘Galentines Day’ Like Lelise Knope

No boys allowed

While Parks & Recreation’s Leslie Knope was certainly not the first to make a girl’s celebration out of Valentine’s Day, she did it best.

“Ladies celebrating ladies,” she says of her annual pre-Valentines day brunch. “It’s like Lillith Fair, minus the angst. Plus, frittatas.” And that mentality is totally consistent with Knope’s code: “hos before bros, uteruses before dude-erusus, ovaries before brovaries.”

So here are 5 great ways to celebrate Galentines day in the spirit of civic-minded, lady-loving Leslie Knope.

1) Make pancakes with your girlfriends to the soundtrack of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 “Glass ceiling” concession speech, then discuss women in politics over brunch.

2) Play women’s-only charades, including only books or movies written by or about women. Consider team names like “Geraldine Ferraro” or “Ruth Bader Ginsberg.”

3) Enlist your friends in a high-stakes poker game, and then donate the winnings to the International Rescue Committee, to fund a year of a girl’s education (only $58 bucks.)

MORE 8 Fun, Not-Cheesy Ways to Celebrate Valentines Day

4) Binge watch Broad City (another Amy Poehler project) and take a shot every time Abbi or Ilana choose radical acceptance over judgement or competition. Take two shots when Bevers does anything revolting.

5) Dance party. Beyonce, Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift only. No exceptions.

And no chocolate diamonds, under any circumstances.

Read next: It’s Better to Be Single on Valentine’s Day

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: February 12

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

1. Proprietary tech under the hood means farmers can’t service their own equipment. Time for open source tractors.

By Kyle Wiens in Wired

2. These grassroots efforts to improve life are glimmers of hope for Guatemala.

By Shannon K. O’Neill at the Council on Foreign Relations

3. Secular Americans aren’t morally adrift. For many, altruism is their moral compass.

By Nick Street in Al Jazeera America

4. It takes a package of policies to substantially reduce poverty.

By Linda Giannarelli, Kye Lippold, Sarah Minton and Laura Wheaton in MetroTrends

5. “Ultimately, the most effective way to create shareholder value is to serve the interests of all stakeholders.”

By Marc Benioff in the Huffington Post

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

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 Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: February 5

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

1. Could Blockchain — the secure, encrypted network that powers Bitcoin transactions — be used to build a safer alternate Internet?

By Scott Rosenberg in Backchannel, on Medium

2. One NGO is crowdfunding the fight against human trafficking.

By Leif Coorlim at the CNN Freedom Project

3. High-achieving, low-income students get into selective colleges when they actually apply. Virtual college counselors can make sure they do.

By Bloomberg Philanthropies

4. “Vocal fry” and other patterns in the speech of younger women might signal a change for generations to come.

By Chi Luu in JSTOR Daily

5. Scientists are hoping genetically-modified coral can save the Great Barrier Reef.

By Laura Clark in Smithsonian Magazine

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

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 Middle East

ISIS Manifesto Depicts Its Grim Vision of the Role of Women

The newly translated document offers a glimpse into the true expectations for women under ISIS

Women should be married from the age of nine and only educated to the age of 15 according to a manifesto from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria posted to a jihadist forum.

The document was first posted by the media wing of the Khanssaa Brigade, an ISIS women’s group and was translated into English by the British think tank the Quilliam Foundation. It lambasts the “Western program for women” and lays out the expectations for the “sedentary” role of women under ISIS, which controls swathes of Syria and Iraq.

Haraqs Rafiq, the managing director of Quilliam, said in a statement that the manifesto provides a starkly different perspective on female life under ISIS than that projected by some of the hundreds of Western women who have traveled to the region.

“It allows us to look past the propaganda banded about on social media by Western supporters of ISIS, enabling us to get into the mind-set of the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of women who willingly join its ranks,” he said.

The manifesto, which Quilliam says was likely intended to attract women from the conservative Gulf region, discusses a female education focused on religion and says the “purpose of her existence is the Divine duty of motherhood.”

 

TIME society

How My Dad’s Brain Cancer Finally Convinced Me to Quit Facebook

TIME.com stock photos Social Apps iPhone Facebook
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

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

My therapist says that Facebook comes up in sessions with her clients on a daily basis, and I can see why

xojane

Facebook has an average of 864 million active daily users, but as of a month ago, that number was reduced by at least one person—me. And every time I tell someone that I hit the “Delete My Account” button, it’s like I’m making some shocking confession.

“Why?” most ask incredulously.

While there is no one answer, the tipping point was my dad’s recent diagnosis with stage four glioblastoma—brain cancer.

I got my dad’s news in the middle of October when he had quite suddenly begun experiencing symptoms. His wife took him to the ER where doctors later discovered a large mass in his brain.

My dad and his wife have been together for 19 years. He moved in with her and her two young daughters—much younger than me—after my parents divorced when I was 15. I often daydreamed about what my dad’s life must have been like with his new family. But I didn’t have to wonder once I finally visited their home many years later and saw all of the family photos around their house: posed pictures of the four of them all in black T-shirts and khakis, pics of them in formal wear on a cruise ship, candids from holidays past.

He had obviously built a strong relationship with his stepdaughters, particularly the youngest. And it would be her face I was left staring at on Facebook after my dad’s diagnosis. She changed her profile photo to a picture of her and my dad, which felt like a punch in the stomach even though I knew logically that it wasn’t about me. I clicked on her profile at least once a day to see if she had changed it.

In order to further pick at the scab, I took to Googling her name with my dad’s name. I found out they had done a 5k together a couple of years ago and that when she played soccer in high school, my father and her mother were listed as her parents.

I told all of this to my therapist, who did not respond the way I had hoped.

Instead she said, “I think you should block her on your Facebook feed.”

I cried when she said that because something in me craved the tortuous feelings that came from clicking on this girl’s profile. But I was prepared to do it. However, when I started thinking about it—really thinking about it—I realized that her profile picture and updates weren’t the only things I was discontent about being on Facebook.

My therapist says that Facebook comes up in sessions with her clients on a daily basis, and I can see why. It offers us innumerable opportunities to compare our own lives with the lives that our Facebook friends choose to present to us. And I say “choose to present” because it hardly ever offers the whole picture. Someone announces her new job but fails to mention she was fired from the last one. Other people overstate their financial status, relationships, how perfect their kids are, or just how amazingly fun and interesting their lives are in general.

So after some reflection, I’ve come up with a few reasons as to why I ultimately quit:

Being on Facebook gave me a false sense of community. I’d been kicking around the idea of getting off of Facebook for awhile but would excuse the fact that I was still on it with exclamations like, “This is the only way I still keep up with some people!” But if someone isn’t even worth an email, text, phone call, or postcard, are they really worth me “keeping up with” on Facebook? And can that even be considered keeping up with them?

For me, Facebook made me feel like I had this village of support around me, but it was essentially a form of voyeurism. What I needed to do was return some emails, send some texts, reach out to people—and not just “like” their status update about having pancakes for brunch or comment on a picture of their kid’s latest dance recital.

I needed something real. I needed someone to see me with puffy eyes and unwashed hair and baby-food-stained sweatpants while I drank boxed wine and watched Gilmore Girls reruns. I needed someone to hit the metaphorical thumbs-up sign on that picture, and I needed to do the same for other people.

It made me feel sad/annoyed/jealous. Seeing the photos my dad’s stepdaughter was posting of the two of them together—memorializing him like he was already gone—was killing me. Then there were the complaining vaguebookers, not-so-humble braggers, and myriad other photos, links, and updates that were bumming me out.

Plus, I didn’t like feeling bad about myself for not having a new job or new dog or freshly blown-out hair or a perfectly Pinterest-ed party to photograph and post on Facebook. Or, perhaps most importantly, a picture of me and my dad looking and feeling healthy.

It was a time suck that distracted me from the present moment. I would find myself mindlessly scrolling through a high school acquaintance’s 200-photo album of Disney World photos and then looking up to realize I’d let a whole hour pass doing something I didn’t consciously even want to be doing. What else could I have been doing with that time that would be way more enjoyable for me?

So what does life after Facebook look like?

I have friends telling me they wish they could do the same thing. Newsflash: They can if they really want to. But I know how they feel. For the longest time, I’ve felt like I needed permission to do something as simple as quitting Facebook. So I finally gave myself the go-ahead.

I’ve had more interactions with people via email, text, phone, and in person. I think some of the people that have reached out to me think I’ve suddenly unfriended them on Facebook, but regardless of the reason, it’s been nice to actually have one-on-one chats with folks about what’s going on in their lives and in mine.

I have more time. Last night after my three-year-old and her eight-month-old sister were tucked into bed and the dishes were done and the comfy pants were on, I slow danced in the kitchen with my husband and cried into his shoulder (I’m still a bucket full of emotions). I’ve also finished two and a half books, sent out thank-you notes for Christmas presents, and figured out how to properly shape my own eyebrows. And I’ve learned I need to find a hobby.

I still don’t know if I made the right decision, though. So I ask you: Have you pulled the plug on your Facebook account? If so, what was the tipping point for you? If not, have you thought about it? What’s stopped you from quitting?

FYI, if you’re looking to take the plunge: Save yourself the time and trouble of looking for the link on your Facebook profile page and just google “Delete Facebook account.” You want the first link that pops up. You’ll have the opportunity to download a copy of your info—all the photos and such you’ve uploaded to Facebook—and then you can either deactivate or permanently delete your Facebook account. I opted for the latter.

Jen Harper wrote this article for xoJane.

Read next: These Texting and Social Media Habits Could Sabotage Your Love Life

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

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 Family

How Workplaces Can Combat Pregnancy Discrimination

businesswoman-baby-carriage
Getty Images

Having a baby shouldn't put Americans' jobs at risk

As a mother of a young child today, I know much has changed for mothers in the workforce since my mother and her mother had children. But there’s one thread that ties our narratives together – a subject that’s too often fleeting in the broader discussion of working moms: the discrimination women experience during pregnancy, and after they return to work.

Every year, thousands of women file charges against employers for acts of pregnancy discrimination. In fact, charges of pregnancy discrimination filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) actually increased by 71 percent between 1992 and 2011.

What does pregnancy discrimination look like, exactly? It occurs when an employer treats a job applicant or an employee unfavorably due to her pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. It could involve refusing to hire or promote a qualified individual because she is pregnant, firing a woman because she missed a few days of work to give birth, or forcing a pregnant employee to take unpaid leave. Sure, this behavior hurts pregnant women and their families, but it also hurts employers: In addition to breaking the law, these companies may be failing to retain some of their most highly qualified employees – losing out on their skills and productivity.

The bottom line is that women comprise a significant proportion of the nation’s talent pool, and when their contributions are constrained by patronizing and outmoded notions of what motherhood should look like (even well-intentioned ones), our workforce, our economy and our families suffer. At present, women serve as the sole or primary breadwinners in 40 percent of American households. In other words, women’s sustained participation in the labor force is critical to the economic security and stability of millions of individual families.

And yet, here we are in 2015, and some employers still view child-bearing and employment as mutually exclusive activities. Just last year, the EEOC announced a $30,000 settlement to a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit a woman brought against her former employer, Triple T Foods in Arkansas, which fired her the day she announced she was pregnant. This is only one example of the $3.5 million the EEOC recouped in damages for victims of pregnancy discrimination between 2011 and 2014.

We have a long way to go. But we’ve made progress in some ways. For example, just a generation ago, many women left the workplace when they became visibly pregnant. In the 1960s, almost half of women who worked during their first pregnancy left the workforce by the time they were about 6 months pregnant. Today, only about 12 percent do.

And we’re certainly better off than we were. In 1908, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Muller v. Oregon, upheld a state statute restricting the number of hours per day a female employee could work and thereby set a precedent for paternalistic laws intended to “protect” women from the hazards and indignities of the workplace. While the Court acknowledged that the statute treated workers differently on the basis of sex, it also found that that a woman’s “physical structure” and “maternal functions” justified such unequal treatment.

Although the precedent established in Muller had unraveled by the late twentieth century and its discriminatory assumptions are no longer formally codified in law, they still permeate the cultural expectations surrounding women—especially pregnant women—in the workplace. These expectations can affect women even before they enter the workplace. Pregnant women face discrimination at job interviews and face much greater discrimination than other workers with short-term disabilities who may need minimal accommodations. For example, in a survey funded by the W.K Kellogg Foundation, 69 percent of respondents who reported being denied a pregnancy-related accommodation felt that their employers had honored similar requests from coworkers with other limitations or disabilities.

Knowing that this culture exists can and often does discourage women from requesting accommodations from or disclosing her pregnancy to her supervisor. In the same survey, more than half of respondents reported needing scheduling accommodations for prenatal visits and the like, but more than a quarter reported failing to request such an accommodation. That’s a shame, because the truth is that employers should be able to accommodate these requests with minimal expense and inconvenience.

How do we ensure that women who work during pregnancy are treated equitably, and begin to break down this discriminatory culture? That requires a combination of more progressive employer policies coupled with a set of robust legal and regulatory protections. At the federal level, women are protected by laws like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), but there is more we can do.

In June, at the White House Summit on Working Families, President Obama called for federal legislation that supports pregnant workers. Some states like Delaware and Illinois have taken the lead and passed their own versions of the proposed federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.

The EEOC has stepped up, too, releasing new enforcement guidance last year to clarify the applications of the PDA and the ADA, as they apply to pregnant workers. This guidance “requires that employers treat women affected by pregnancy or related medical conditions the same way they treat non-pregnant applicants or employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work.” This means that employers have to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers if they also make such accommodations for other employees who have a temporary disability. The EEOC’s notice also includes women who undergo fertility treatments, are nursing mothers, or are discriminated against based on stereotypes and assumptions about motherhood.

Outside of government, workplaces across the nation are already teeming with examples of managers and employees alike who are dismantling outdated assumptions about the needs and abilities of pregnant workers, as well as the responsibilities of the employers who hire them. Combining statutory and regulatory protections with voluntary actions by employers can amplify this groundswell of progress. From the classroom to the board room to the factory floor, we see daily evidence of the powerful alignment of workplace policy, statutory protections and individual determination in ensuring that women can, in fact, do and be just about anything.

Building a workplace culture that aligns with the demographic realities of today’s labor force allows employers not only to stay on the right side of the law, but, as a growing body of evidence suggests, shows that employers can still do well with their bottom line by treating all of their workers fairly. After all, support for pregnant workers doesn’t simply benefit this generation of workers; it’s an investment in generations to come.

Latifa Lyles is the Director of the Women’s Bureau at the Department of Labor. 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 women

I Was the Maid of Honor for a Girl I Bullied Mercilessly

bride-bridesmaid-steps
Getty Images

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

I made her preteen life a living hell; years later I’d be walking with her family down the aisle

xojane

“Fatty, fatty, bom, bom!” I screamed, and the other 12-year-old girls around me laughed hysterically.

We pointed, laughed some more, shouted out similar chants, as we ran around our school’s racing track. There were five of us, and our energy was focused on one girl, running alone, tears welling up and nobody to help her. She was our victim; she was no match for the collective energy of a group of self-appointed “cool girls.”

We let the girl overtake us on the track while we ripped her apart in private conversation.

“Her boobs look so weird, she can’t even run with them.”

“She got her period so young, there must be something wrong with her.”

As the girl continued running, boys from our grade walked by on their way to soccer practice. Perfect timing for us, as we watched them shame her body too, echoing our sentiment, validating that we had a right to our behavior. The girl, named Felicity, nickname Flick, continued running.

A lot of people assume that when kids are mean, they don’t really know what they’re doing; that they’re harmless, really. I knew exactly what I was doing, and I knew how it would affect Flick, because I’d been a victim of it for years.

From when I was seven to 13, I had no friends. None, absolutely none. And I wasn’t just left alone to quietly get on with life; kids made fun of me constantly. I had headgear (followed by all other kinds of lisp-inducing braces), horrendous granny-floral glasses and, best of all, warts. A ton of warts on my hands and arms.

Not only was I visually destined to be an elementary school outcast, but pretty soon my personality changed to fit the profile, too. I wouldn’t understand for many years later that people, particularly kids, absorb the identities they are given by others.

I subconsciously developed nervous tics, including counting everything I did in eights, right down to the pieces of toilet paper I used. I obsessively repeated whatever people said to me under my breath, over and over again until someone else spoke to me and I’d change the sentence.

One afternoon, aged 10 in the girl’s locker room (a place designed for bad things to happen) I became so frustrated with the other girls sharing inside jokes I wasn’t a part of, and so paranoid they were talking about me, I slammed the hairbrush I was holding onto the floor. It terrified the girls, only making them more inclined to shout “freak.”

It terrified me, because I felt like one.

So it was pretty great for me when Flick showed up in school. Finally, I wasn’t the biggest weirdo in town. I was pretty relieved everyone seemed to be bored of picking on me, and had moved on to something else.

In my school, tormenting others was the top social currency. I soon realized that not only did I need Flick to distract people from my own inadequacies, but if I joined in with everyone else, maybe I’d finally be accepted.

So there I was, chasing her around the running track, making her sob, breaking her down mentally, like there was no tomorrow. Like I didn’t know what that felt like.

The irony was, of course, I didn’t really like the cool kids. I had nothing in common with them, and they with me. The person I liked the most, if I was honest with myself, was this girl I made cry every day.

When we first met, at the school’s “Welcome Day” for new students, Flick seemed so comfortable in her own skin, so at peace with herself that she gave off a magnetic energy. She wore one of those Lizzie McGuire-esque rainbow tie dye tops, and pink jelly sandals (which I was obsessed with, and my parents never let me get). I’d never met anyone my age like that, and I so desperately hoped that she would overlook my shortcomings, and just like me.

I only stopped bullying Flick when a teacher forced me. The teacher was cool, young, and most of the preteen girls saw her as an older cousin. It made it all the more humiliating when we were made to apologize to Flick and reprimanded for our shameful behavior. Later, we discussed how we couldn’t believe Flick lied and said we were bullying her. She obviously wanted attention.

Too scared of punishment to go near Flick, the girls soon turned their cruelty onto me. I was so, very livid—hadn’t I proved myself to be just like them by now? What had all that effort been for?

Everything came to a head the summer before eighth grade when I was invited to a sleepover party with just a few of the girls. I picked out my clothes and PJs meticulously. Maybe I’d fool them into thinking I’d gotten cool over the summer.

That night, the girls were unrelenting. It became very clear that I was simply there because they weren’t allowed to watch TV past 9 p.m.

They took chocolate cake and wiped it over my face, and I let them. We played one game, I can’t remember the rules for it, but I ended up naked and they laughed at how I had no breasts. I was confused—hadn’t we laughed at Flick for having breasts? I took my things into a corner and slept backward in my sleeping bag so the hood would cover my face and they wouldn’t be able to draw things on me while I slept. They put my hand in a bowl of hot water so I wet myself.

When my mother drove me home the next day, I cried hysterically and wouldn’t tell her what happened. When school started the next week, it was very clear to the class that I’d been demoted.

It didn’t take long for Flick to offer to be my friend. She’d gotten herself some of her own by that point — other girls who’d been bullied, they were sort of forming a club — and they took me in. There were no questions, no conditions; I wasn’t reverted to the bottom of a food chain because with them there wasn’t one.

It turned out that not only did Flick and I have a lot in common, we were pretty normal teenage girls; boy-obsessed, emotional, big on daydreaming. We shared secrets, we made each other scrapbooks.

Once we took the train from our suburb into London by ourselves, without permission, and way too young. As soon as we we frolicked out of the station, I remembered my mom would be picking me up in half an hour from her house, so we frolicked right back onto the train. I thought we were the coolest girls in the world.

Years later and eating dinner at Flick’s house, her kid sister burst out, “Didn’t you used to bully Flick?”

As I sat, frozen in shame, Flick replied, “Yeah… how embarrassing for her!” She winked at me, a familiar expression. That night, I gave her a long-overdue apology.

“When it happened to me, I wanted to die sometimes,” I said.

“Yeah,” she replied. “I know what you mean.”

Fast-forward to today, and my best friend is essentially winning at life. She graduated from the University of Cambridge (yes, that Cambridge) after a year of volunteering in Uganda. She survived a motorcycle crashing into her in Kampala and now calls it a “funny story.” She was elected into a full-time job as the President of Cambridge’s Student’s Union. She got her nose pierced. She still loves rainbow-colored anything. She now works with a teenage girl with Asperger’s Syndrome as her classroom aid.

And last summer, I walked down the aisle as her maid of honor, and watched her marry a loving man who is her equal in kindness and strength.

I had boyfriends in school but I call Flick my “first love” because she was the first person in my life who chose to love me. I wasn’t her family; I was a girl who had made her life hell for a long time. Our lasting friendship continues to teach me the power women gain when we forgive and lift each other up.

In one of the scrapbooks Flick and my other first friends made me, I wrote a note in the back page to myself:

“These are the best friends ever, you are too lucky to have them.

Never take them for granted

Always treat them with respect

Love them for what they are — themselves.”

Charlotte Lait wrote this article for xoJane.

Read next: Bullying Is Good For Your Health

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

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 Race

Being Black Shouldn’t Mean I Have to Be ‘Twice as Good’

sky
Getty Images

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

You saw it on 'Scandal.' We've heard it our whole lives

Black feminist, theorist, and author Audre Lorde once wrote, “Raising black children, female and male, in the mouth of a racist, sexist, suicidal dragon is perilous and chancy. If they cannot love and resist at the same time, they will probably not survive.”

As I live life in this world as a black woman, I often wonder, how does one, at a young age, learn to both love and resist? What does resistance in the face of racism and sexism look like? And, how young is too young to learn these lessons of survival?

I was five years old, braided twists and colorful bobbles and barrettes in my hair, learning to read for the first time, when my mother held me close and gave me my first lesson in respectability politics, and, consequently, my first lesson in survival for a person of black girlhood.

My mother, a Caribbean-American immigrant born in Jamaica, and I were reading Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli at the time. In this book Mr. Magee reaches the town of Two Mills — a town literally divided by racial lines. In Two Mills, Black citizens lived in the East End while the white citizens lived in the West End. On his first day in East End, Mr. Magee met and befriended a reluctant Amanda Beale.

Amanda Beale, an impeccably dressed black girl with glasses, plaits, a messenger bag full of books, and on her way into East End’s school house, just didn’t have time for the strange, ripped-and-dirty-clothes-wearing white boy who in his haste to talk to her was making her late for school.

Amanda Beale was an avid reader, a no-nonsense girl who had no problem putting Mr. Magee in his place. She was smart, confident, well-read, and poor. Amanda Beale was relegated to best friend of the main character status. Despite the book’s white savior complex (and the fetishizing comparisons of Mr. Magee’s newfound black friends’ skin complexions to foods like caramel and coffee beans), this novel was essential to my development.

It’s clear to me, now, that my mother had chosen it for us to read because of its discussions on race relations. It was my literary introduction to my mother’s lessons on respectability and survival.

It began when I expressed my awe of Amanda Beale’s character. She wasn’t like any representation of a black girl I’d seen in the media thus far, and yes, at five, I picked up on that. To this notion, my mother held me close. Her voice trembled but she looked me squarely in the eyes.

“Are you listening?” she’d said.

“Yes, Mom,” I replied, because in our house it was “yes, Mom” or “no, Mom.” There was no, “What?” “Huh?” or my mother’s least favorite, “What do you want?” to be had or heard in that house.

“You like Amanda, right?”

I nodded my head, my hair bobbles click-clacking with the movement.

“You see that she can read and write better and she doesn’t take anything from anybody?”

I nodded again. I did see. Amanda’s intelligence wasn’t a novelty to us, though. Despite what the media will tell you, black women are statistically the most college-educated across racial and gender lines in American society.

But an Amanda Beale would be a novelty to some. And my mother understood that. In that moment, she would make damn sure I understood that, too.

“There are people in this world who will…” she scrunched up her eyebrows and nose, debating her words with careful precision, “underestimate you. They’ll say little things. They’ll doubt that you’re smart, they’ll doubt that you’re kind, some will even treat you like less than a human being deserves.”

I didn’t like where this conversation was going.

Because I was five and maybe it was too soon for me to be learning this, really contextualizing and unpacking this, but what was the alternative? A black girl ill-equipped will be chewed up and spit out. I didn’t yet know that a black girl can never be equipped enough to face the racism and sexism of this world, though we quite literally fight and, some, die trying.

All I could do in my discomfort was squirm. My mother believed that a small price to pay. She held me, firmly.

“There are people in this world that will judge and hurt you, because of me.”

She said things like that a lot.

She blamed herself for the racially and classist based mistreatment that my brother and I would face. As if it was her fault that her children are black, like blackness is a stain on our skin and a stain that needs to be wiped out by society. Or like capitalism, racism, and her disabilities weren’t partly to blame for her, at the time, working class status in society.

You see, before my mother knew anything about me, she knew two key things that would dictate the trajectory of my life: I would be born black and she would have to raise me on a limited income. She blamed herself. People of this world have ill-formed preconceived notions of black people, black women, poor people, poor black people, and especially preconceived negative notions of poor black women.

Back on her bed, she told me, “Because of that, you’ll have to study hard and push yourself. You’ll have to push yourself harder than most other people because that isn’t expected of you. You don’t want people to think you’re not smart do you?”

I shook my head slowly from left to right. No.

“Good,” she said.

She would teach me respectability and a form of survival in order to combat classist, racist, and sexist attitudes. This conversation was only the beginning.

When I was nine years old, living a few towns over in Mattapan, Massachusetts in another three bedroom apartment, I remember having fun joking with my younger brother.

Arriving home from school, we’d barely stepped over the threshold of the front entrance to our apartment. My high cheekbones etched with the laughing lines of my pronounced lips, I joked with my brother in African-American Vernacular English. Some people also refer to this language, steeped in both English and West African linguistic patterns, as slang and/or Ebonics.

My brother laughed at whatever I had said.

My mother rapped us both with a light slap to our book-bag strap clad shoulders. She wagged her right index finger, maneuvering her finger and reprimanding stern look between the both of us.

“Don’t talk like that. Because if you say that here, you’ll slip up and speak like that outside.”

She “humphed” and walked further into our home, leaving my brother and me to stew with our thoughts.

There, walking away from us further into the house, was a woman whose Jamaican born parents told her to “lose” her accent in order to better assimilate into American society and negate negative stereotypes. To this day, my mother’s voice and speech pattern of Jamaican patois only becomes laden with a Jamaican accent when she’s angry.

There was a woman who’d learned her own respectability politics from her mother, my Nana, and was now passing this knowledge down to us.

This was my mother’s act of revolution, my mother’s lesson of resistance, my mother’s shield to racism and classism that she gave to her children. It was her only hope to fight the fear of our forthcoming mistreatment.

While white children could speak in popular slang terms and not be judged as unintelligent and forced to represent their entire race, my brother and I had to mind our tongues from speaking in a language that our people had hatched, cultivated, and enriched. I reflect on this at a time when it is popular for ads for various companies and products to use Ebonics or slang to sell their products, although their companies don’t reflect a diverse group of employees in positions of power.

At the time of being reprimanded for our slang, my brother and I, nine and eight respectively, had only mostly been subject to microagressions. Sure, when I was only four and my father had been taken to a police station under the guise of “justified” racial profiling, a white cop walking near me, “bumped” into me and assaulted my small frame with the gun latched into his holster. And sure, he didn’t apologize and he walked on by like he hadn’t done anything wrong or, quite frankly, committed an act of violence against a four-year-old black girl. My mother lit into him with verbal foliage so colorful that I’m sure his children many times over will feel the wake of its effects before they ever commit other acts of racism. Or, so I hope.

But, mostly we’d been subject to casual racism, like the teachers at my school who told me I was so articulate and spoke so well. (What did they expect? It was at a rare rigorous elementary school in the inner city where they themselves instructed me.) Or like the people who asked my mother if she was sure that her daughter played the violin in a highly selective orchestra. Was she sure? Hell yes. She only drove me to six-hour rehearsals every Sunday.

But, my mother upheld that if my brother and I negated these ill-formed pre-conceived notions by not speaking in Ebonics and studied hard, our lot in life would be easier.

In fact, later that year when my predominately white fourth grade class that I was bused to via an advanced placement program for Boston-based minorities was learning our multiplication time tables, she turned it into another respectability lesson.

First, my mother had me make a flash card set of multiplication equations up until the “12 times” tables.

She, in no uncertain terms, told me to sit down and learn them and not to come to her unless I learned, understood, and memorized them all.

“If you come to me and I test you on any one of these and find that you don’t know them, I’m gonna spank you.”

I violently shook my head from side to side and protested, stamping my foot into the hardwood. It was ill-advised. I’m lucky she didn’t snatch me up right then and there for the rare form of disrespect administered by a child of color to her parent of color. In non-western cultures, disrespect to your elders is more than frowned upon.

And so I wised up, “fixed my face,” and sat up straighter, mumbling a sorry.

She sighed.

“I’m not doing this to punish you. You need to understand.”

She got closer now, in my face where we could be eye level.

“You have to be twice — TWICE — as good to get half of what they have. Always.”

I fought back tears.

I was already experiencing this in school — and I did have to be “twice as good” to be applauded for my work in class when my mostly white classmates escaped casual racism on a daily basis. I did have to stand out to be noticed or celebrated in a world that directly and indirectly berates children of color and reprimands us when we attempt to carve out spaces for ourselves. I did have to go above and beyond in all things to negate the racism that I would face in a “prove them wrong” fashion.

And when my white classmates’ parents leered at my peers of color and me for taking up too many seats in the local school of their suburban neighborhood, though we’d earned our seats through placing high scores on a test while some white students weren’t nearly as well-read, versed, or didn’t study as hard as we did, those white students were still celebrated and cherished members of our school environment. They would still grow up to be privileged in a classist and racial context of our society. And I would still face classism and racism as a poor black girl until the day I die.

I learned all of my multiplication tables that day.

Not before trying to skirt past my mother’s own rigorous standards and pretend like I’d learned them all. She started with the hardest ones first, weeding them out until she caught one that I couldn’t rattle off immediately.

And she whooped my butt.

From the clothes my brother and I wore, to the conversations we held, to the ways in which we wore our hair, to the music we listened to, to the schools we were admitted to, down to the grades we received, there was always a double standard to be met.

I remember as a young teen joking with my cousin and brother as we procured bandanas for our hair, loosened our pants so that they hung low, and walked with a limp in our step around my cousin’s home.

“Nah come ‘round here like no city boppin’ fool… Chuh!”

The three of us, my cousin, brother, and I, jumped in place having been startled. Turning, we spotted our grandmother’s disapproving look. We quickly straightened, fixed our pants, and ripped the bandanas from our heads. It felt like we’d been caught committing a cardinal sin. As a joke, we’d adopted caricatured mannerisms of the ways in which we saw black and brown people being portrayed on television, but with our grandmother’s reprimands, the moment quickly became serious.

I reflect on this moment at a time when it is trendy on social media for my white peers to take selfies wearing hoodies, black sunglasses and caption their photos “thug life.”

And at a time when it’s popular for college students to adopt “thug,” “gangster,” or “hood” Halloween costumes, complete with painting their skins black or brown. I can’t articulate enough that baggy clothes, bandanas, hats, and braids don’t make a person a gangster or a thug. The juxtaposition of white skin against these articles of clothing allow for a sort of costuming or ironic joke to take place. It’s funny when a white suburban kid dresses up in a hoodie, baggie jeans, etc. because “of course,” the white suburban kid would never be suspected as being a thug. “Of course,” the white suburban kid would or could never be a thug.

In reality, more often than not, a white person committing a crime is never described or policed as a “thug” but, rather, “misunderstood,” and treated as a human being entitled to due process in a court of law.

However, my brother, cousin, and I are not allowed that “joke” in the context of our lives. Despite the college educations at top universities between the three of us, more often than not we will be perceived as threats, thugs, or dangerous in our lifetimes. That statement is not for semantics. It’s not exaggerated and it’s not said for dramatic effect.

That’s not something I can prove to anyone who doesn’t experience racial profiling firsthand. And by firsthand, I mean you being on the receiving end of being racially profiled, not you driving around with your black friend. For more on the matter, I suggest tracking and comparing the 140 character anecdotes found in the hashtags #Alivewhileblack and #Crimingwhilewhite on Twitter. For my grandmother, however, her scolding didn’t go past that one scolding sentence. It would take the next several years for me to unpack and fully understand her policing of my brother, cousin, and me that day.

But, are these lessons in respectability useful for children of color to learn?

Consider, for instance, that despite being a college-educated and god-fearing man, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was targeted and, ultimately, killed because of his race.

But, similarly in the way that young girls and women are taught not to wear revealing clothing in order to prevent a rape from being committed against them, children of color are taught the world over various ways in which we should prevent the acts of racism that are committed against us. Through an intersectional lens, consider then the gender and race-specific respectability politics that are taught to a black girl, woman, or female-identified person throughout their years in order to prevent sexual assault, sexism, and racism from plaguing their lives.

Finally, I’d like to note that this essay and similar sentiments made in other conversations or mediums (such as the scene in Scandal during which Papa Pope reminds Olivia of his instructions that she herself must be “twice as good to get half of what they have”), are not made to express that individual white children don’t face hardships or that they don’t learn difficult lessons from a young age.

White supremacy makes way for terms like “white trash,” a term that suggests that a white person who is poor, illiterate, “country,” or perhaps mentally ill, etc. is an atypical white person. The “white” in “white trash” is used to denote that this person is unusual for the white race.

However, it is important to note that these lessons in respectability politics and survival that are taught to young people of color may not be enough to save us from the violence.

I look inward, having reflected on my upbringing and understand my mother and grandmother’s version of resistance but look outward in wondering, “What other forms of resistance can we teach young people of color to thwart the racist, sexist, and suicidal dragon?”

At this time of national turmoil and unrest, it is my deepest regret that I do not, in fact, know.

Jasmine Rose-Olesco wrote this article for xoJane.

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

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: January 29

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

1. The homeownership safety net may be unraveling for the next generation of seniors.

By Taz George and Ellen Seidman in MetroTrends

2. As we try to understand what draws Americans to ISIS, one judge hopes we can slow radicalization by putting recruits in halfway houses instead of jail.

By Dina Temple-Raston at National Public Radio

3. Phones for farmers: With a mobile phone, a developing world farmer can learn best practices, get weather data, follow crop prices and even access financial services.

By Gates Notes

4. A new food studies program at a Bronx community college will look at healthy eating and obesity in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods.

By Winnie Hu in the New York Times

5. A new initiative is pushing to get more women into the debate on global issues. Meet Foreign Policy Interrupted.

By Micah Zenko at the Council on Foreign Relations

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

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

U.S. Women Leadership Ranking is Pathetic Compared to Other Countries

Democratic Women
Tom Williams—CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images House Democratic women of the 114th Congress including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, pose for a picture on the House steps of the Capitol, Jan. 7, 2015.

We're not even close to the top

When it comes to women in leadership roles, the U.S. isn’t cutting it.

According to a new comparison by Pew, the U.S. ranks 33rd out of 49 high-income countries when it comes to women in the national legislature (20% of the House and Senate are women). When they expanded the comparison to 137 countries, the U.S. dropped to 83rd (these calculations were made were using data from mid-2014, but even when the most recent Congressional elections are taken into consideration, the U.S. only rises to 75th place.)

We did a little better when it comes to women in cabinet or government managerial positions: the U.S. ranked 25th out of 141 countries, and when the pool was narrowed to high-income countries, we tied for 12th place with Canada.

Pew also tracked “legislators, senior officials, and managers,” a category which includes corporate leaders, heads of nonprofits or unions, and policymakers. Among high-income countries, the U.S. was tied with Barbados, Tobago, and Trinidad for fourth place, but when the comparison was expanded to 125 countries with data available, the U.S. dropped to 16th place.

In other words, for all our striving, we’re not being particularly effective at electing female leaders compared to other countries. Especially compared to Rwanda, where 64% of the seats in the Chamber of Deputies are held by women.

[Pew]

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com