Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, authors of this month’s Atlantic cover story, sit down with Hanna Rosin to discuss the power of confidence and how self doubt holds women back.
Evidence shows that women are less self-assured than men—and that to succeed, confidence matters as much as competence. Here’s why, and what to do about it.
It was 1983, and women were starting to get loud. In the academy, writers and theorists were debating prostitution, pornography, and BDSM. The Equal Rights Amendment was making its last rounds through Congress, passing in the House but not getting enough votes to be added to the Constitution. Alice Walker had just published The Color Purple. Across the Atlantic, Margaret Thatcher was continuing her reign as the first female prime minister of Britain.
And in New York City, a Queens native named Cyndi Lauper was about to make a declaration: “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.”
In the 30 years since Lauper released her career-defining hit, “Girls” has been described as a “rebellious sing-along,” a “feminist anthem,” even a symbol of the “pogo-punk unisex spirit of the irreverent and permissive early 1980s.” Bloggers have written odes to it, dance-recital choreographers have it flocked to it, a movie has been made in its honor. The accompanying album, She’s So Unusual, is being re-released in April, and the liner notes remind listeners that “beneath [the] sparkly veneer was a strong feminist message.”
Read more. [Image courtesy of Cyndi Lauper]
Instead of following traditional paths, women are using their science, technology, engineering, and math degrees to create new careers.
Read more. [Image: Jessica Hill/AP Photo]
Among the things to hate about Barbie is that she’s styled such that no woman could ever have her proportions and remain bipedal. Many say she’s too thin, too made-up, and too passive-looking to be a role model for the modern girl. (Barbie’s response, of course, is #unapologetic.)
There’s already evidence that Barbie affects girls’ body image. But through her many iterations, Barbie has now been a paleontologist, a pilot, and a Marine. With options like those, surely she doesn’t cause any lasting damage to girls’ career aspirations? … Right? Right?
A duo of researchers at Oregon State University hypothesized that playing with sexualized dolls not only hurts self-esteem, it influences the way young girls think about their adult lives.
Past research in the U.K. has shown that nearly a third of female teenagers want to be models, while only 4 percent wanted to be engineers. Adolescent girls, it seems, are drawn to careers based on appearance, not knowledge.
Is Barbie the one steering young girls away from the Python code and toward the catwalk?
Read more. [Image: mjtmail (tiggy)/plounsbury/Flickr]
How women around the world are faring on wages, executive slots, and STEM careers.
Read more. [Image: Bazuki Muhammad/Reuters]
Irene Greif always thought she’d be a teacher. “For one thing,” she told me, “I’d been told by my mother that it was good to be a teacher because you just worked the hours your kids were in school and you could come home.” It had just always been the profession in the back of her mind, the default.
So then it must have been a bit of a shock when, after becoming the first woman ever to receive a Ph.D. in computer science from MIT, Greif discovered that she didn’t really enjoy teaching—she much preferred research. And so eventually she left teaching as a professor and did what she did best: studying, thinking, and figuring systems out. She founded a research field, computer-supported cooperative work, and has spent her life figuring out how to build better systems for humans to work together.
Greif recently retired from IBM, where she’d been since the mid-’90s, and is hoping to devote some time to encouraging young women to go into STEM fields and coaching them to stick with them—a twist on teaching that she does genuinely like.
Read more. [Image courtesy of Irene Greif]
Maybe you remember the old joke: “Why do dogs lick their balls? Because they can.” Here’s a new one I just made up: “Why do women lie about sex? Because they can.” It’s not really funny, I admit, but it does have the benefit of being true. Women are anatomically secretive. Our stuff is neatly tucked away, and the obvious signs that connote female arousal—arching, gasping, and so on—are secondary and unreliable. They might be genuine, or they might not be.
Men are all evidence. A character in Sophie Fontanel’s new memoir of celibacy, The Art of Sleeping Alone, succinctly describes the male dilemma. Carlos has ended his marriage because he no longer wants to have sex with his wife. Fontanel asks him whether he has told his wife the true reason he left. Carlos replies: “How could I have lied to her? With love, you can always get out of a bind because you can’t see it, but getting a hard-on, or not, you can’t wriggle out of that; might as well be frank about it.” When your hard-ons are invisible, there’s room for lots of wriggling.
By now, of course, it’s difficult to think of female desire as in any way hidden. The cultural speculum has been firmly inserted for a good look around. Women have long since learned all about how our tucked-away stuff works, with pioneers of second-wave feminism as our guides: Our Bodies, Ourselves was practically standard-issue along with the dorm-room furniture when I arrived at my very liberal college in 1985. Meanwhile, female lust has been thoroughly documented (or at any rate, endlessly and theatrically depicted) by the adult-film industry. How would porn get along without horny females? Science, too, has lately been busy substantiating the existence of girl lust. In his recent tour of burgeoning research into female desire, What Do Women Want?, Daniel Bergner reports a current verdict: women are at least as libidinous as men.
Read more. [Image: Noma Bar/Dutch Uncle]
As Christine Toretti tells it, her housekeeper was the one who staged the intervention. After logging tens of thousands of miles and helping raise hundreds of millions of dollars as a finance co-chair for the Republican National Committee leading up to the 2012 elections, Toretti was so depressed by Mitt Romney’s failed presidential bid that she retreated to her home in the tiny town of Indiana, Pennsylvania, to nurse her wounds. “Finally, the cleaning lady came in one day and said, ‘I’d like to fumigate the sofa that you’ve been on for two weeks. Would you please get off?’ ”
Toretti obliged, then spent the next two months coming to terms with what had befallen her beloved GOP, and deciding what to do about it. Especially painful for her was how abysmally Romney, and Republicans generally, had fared with women. Back in 1997, she had been appointed to the RNC by then–Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, who specifically tasked Toretti, then a young oil-and-gas executive, with bringing other women into the fold. Seventeen years later, Toretti cannot believe that she’s still on the same Sisyphean mission. “It’s like pushing a rope versus pulling it,” she told me during a late-September lunch near Capitol Hill.
Read more. [Image: John Cuneo]
In radio and television stations across the country, thousands and thousands of hours of tape are slowly deteriorating. If they don’t get digitized soon, their contents will be gone. As Karen Cariani, director of WGBH’s library and archives told me, ”Video tape and audiotape is not a stable format. After 40 or 50 years, they are disintegrating. And the information—pictures, sounds on that physical medium—is disappearing. Unlike a piece of paper or a photograph that might last 100 years, media formats are extremely fragile.”
Unfortunately, that deterioration is all too apparent in the following, remarkable clip from WGBH. In it, we are treated to a conversation between two of the 20th century’s most remarkable figures, Eleanor Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, but it is marked by an audible, distracting buzzing throughout. As WGBH archives manager Keith Luf explained to me, “this is the result of a deterioration of the original video source tape to the extent that the two audio channels have begun to ‘bleed’ together as the tape begins to physically breakdown. Videotape was never intended to be permanent, and its decay does not discriminate on content, even if it is an historic meeting between JFK and Eleanor Roosevelt.”
Read more. [Image: AP]