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]
The attack on Republicans worked in 2012, and Democrats will use it again in 2016. Will their frontrunner’s husband weaken its efficacy?
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
The gender-wage gap still exists, but it isn’t as bad as we think it is—the apocryphal 77 cents on the dollar figure doesn’t accommodate the person’s profession or hours worked. When accounting for career choice, the gap might be as low as 5 cents, the author Christina Hoff Sommers wrote recently on the Daily Beast. Other sources have noted the same discrepancy. Writing in Slate last year, Hanna Rosin pointed out that women actually make about 91 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men for the same number of hours.
Instead, the more alarming wage gap might be the one between mothers and childless women: One recent paper found that women with kids make roughly 7 to 14 percent less than women without them.
Part of the difference can be attributed to the so-called “mommy track:” Some moms drop out of the workforce for a few years after having children and thus take a hit to their experience and contacts. Likewise, if a recent law school graduate knows she wants to have a big family, she might join a nonprofit instead of a big firm because she knows she’ll want to leave right at 5 p.m. each day.
But a more hidden, less legal explanation could be discrimination by the employer.
Read more. [Image: Syronnica/Flickr]
Though contraception is rarely mentioned in State of the Union addresses, it might make an appearance tonight, since President Obama is expected to highlight the protections of the Affordable Care Act, one of which is free birth control. If so, it would be in keeping with a general trend of women and women’s issues playing a greater role in State of the Union speeches over the years.
Read more. [Image: Brad Borevitz]
Even before Cher Horowitz of Clueless shopped her way into the world in 1995, cultural commentators spent a lot of energy fretting about uptalk. You know, uptalk? That oft-mocked conversational style, usually attributed to the “Valley Girl”? The one that implies a question mark at the end of otherwise perfectly declarative statements?
As a linguistic stereotype, uptalk has been debunked—boys and girls both use it, and it doesn’t just signal docility or uncertainty, as is often assumed. But the phrase “uptalk” is still used to symbolize a broader set of social tendencies that are particularly prevalent among young women: body language and intonations that make girls seem less confident about themselves.
When Senator Kirsten Gillibrand took the stage at The Atlantic's Shriver Report summit on women and poverty on Wednesday, she mostly focused on policy: universal pre-K, affordable daycare, paid family leave, etc. But one of the men in the audience stood up and posed a question that hinted at the stickier social stigmas at work in gender inequality: What about the women who hold themselves back with the way they present themselves to others?
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
In a Wall Street Journal editorial this week, Bush administration press secretary Ari Fleischer wrote that “‘marriage inequality’ should be at the center of any discussion of why some Americans prosper and others don’t.” He cited statistics about the vast income disparities between single women and married women, regardless of race, and argued that these gaps would shrink if women stayed in school and waited until marriage to have kids.
At an Atlantic summit on female poverty on Wednesday, the women in the room would have none of that.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]