I’m thrilled that my most recent column for The Daily Muse is now featured on Forbes Woman and has been generating an insightful social conversation on Twitter.
You can read the entire post here:
Elliot Rodger’s shooting spree in Isla Vista sparked a national conversation about the pervasiveness of misogyny in American culture via the #YesAllWomen hashtag. And although it’s clear that Rodger suffered from mental illnesses and was facilitated by easy access to guns, the guiding principles of his “manifesto” and the worldview that led him to target and kill young women are terrifyingly mainstream.
Sasha Weiss said it best in the New Yorker: The #YesAllWomen conversation demonstrates that “Rodger’s hate of women grew out of attitudes that are all around us. Perhaps more subtly, it suggests that he was influenced by a predominant cultural ethos that rewards sexual aggression, power, and wealth, and that reinforces traditional alpha masculinity and submissive femininity.”
Like many of the other women and men expressing their outrage through #YesAllWomen, I’ve been ruminating on the persistent belief that sexual aggression is a natural male condition for a long time. During my research for my graduate dissertation, which focused on sex ed in schools, I was flabbergasted at how often the question, “How do I say ‘no’ without hurting his feelings?” appeared in sex ed books and teen magazines alike. In college, I was perplexed at the number of programs designed to teach women how to defend themselves, walk in groups, and avoid date rape, and the lack of programs designed to teach young men to simply not sexually assault people. And as my career has developed, I continue to see how men who demonstrate aggression and volatility in the workplace are called passionate leaders, while women who do the same are called hysterical control-freaks.
But as I read through the insightful #YesAllWomen tweets, I thought not about my own past experiences with sexism, but about my son’s future. I blinked and he was 18 months —I’ll blink again and he’ll be 18. As a feminist and as a mother, how will I raise my son to embrace equality and to rebuff a hyper-masculine culture that celebrates violence and shrugs off misogyny?
So I turned to the experts—hitting the books and soliciting more experienced parents for their advice. Specifically, I wanted to know how parents can set the stage when their sons are very young—establishing a healthy foundation for an open mind that thinks critically about the stereotypes around him. He’s what I learned.
I’m thrilled about my new piece on Women’s Media Center, “Meet Your Brand’s New Spokesperson: Funny, Female, and Fully Clothed.”
Spring break is traditionally the time for beaches and comically large cocktails, but it precedes a more stressful seasonal occasion—the end of the year intern-rush, when students return to their hometowns looking for meaningful summer work. As companies continue to cope with budget constraints and entry-level workers stumble into a painfully slow-to-recover job market, employers not only see unpaid or low-paid internships as fiscally smart, they also understand that they can be picky.
So, this year, consider spending some of your time off tackling a few of the following intern strength-building activities. You’ll only have to give up a day or so of your break, but you’ll be rewarded with must-have skills that will increase your chances of landing an awesome internship at the end of the semester.
Read more on The Muse.
You probably know that paternity leave is becoming much more common, and that it’s been shown to be beneficial for the whole family. But I was recently surprised to learn why it’s so advantageous—and who reaps the rewards.
A few weeks ago, Liza Mundy of New America Foundation and the author of The Richer Sex: How the New Majority of Female Breadwinners is Transforming Our Culture helped push the concept of paternity leave into the ongoing national conversation about “having it all” as working parents with her Atlantic article, “The Daddy Track.”
Mundy points out that fathers who take paternity leave and play an equal role in the difficult first few weeks with a newborn tend to stay more active in the child’s life as he or she grows up, creating a more even distribution of household and baby responsibilities and avoiding the “second shift” paradox (when working mothers do most of the household work, even though they work full-time). Mundy further concludes that the true beneficiaries of paternity leave are women and the businesses and nations that employ them, since paternity leave has been shown to “boost male participation in the household, enhance female participation in the labor force, and promote gender equity in both domains.” In other words, it’s a smart economic strategy for governments, because it shrinks the gender pay gap and helps ensure that women, who, in many countries, are often better educated than men, return to the workforce after having children.
Earlier this week I wrote a column for The Muse about ambivalent sexism, or sexism that comes across as complimentary but originates in stereotypical beliefs about gender and ultimately has the same effects as hostile, or outright, sexism.
During my research for the piece and after its publication, I received some (anticipated) push back from readers of both sexes about how some of the examples I cite aren’t “really” sexist.
For instance, a few friends told me that when a man “apologizes” to the women in the room before or after using profanity, it’s not sexist. He’s simply acknowledging that there are ladies in the room.
Another reader, while agreeing with the article’s conclusions, noted, “This reminds me why chivalry is dead.”
Chivalry is a word that comes up a lot when we start talking about ambivalent sexism. It’s common to hear, Let’s just live in a world where no one can pay a woman a compliment or open her car door or help her carry her luggage without being called a sexist!
Let me be clear about this. I do think chivalry is dying, and I don’t think we should be sad to see it go. If I have to put up with wage gaps, double standards, street harassment, unattainable expectations of beauty, and all the other lovelies that spring forth from a society that tolerates sexism, in exchange for someone occasionally offering me a seat on the metro because I’m a woman, well, then I’ll stay standing for thirty minutes. Thanks.
Why are we trying to preserve chivalry when we should be aiming for a culture of kindness and acceptance, one in which we are polite to each other regardless of gender, appearance, social status, or sexual orientation? Instead of upholding chivalry — a tradition that stems from the view that women are in need of protection — we should focus on creating a culture that expects us to respect each other and allows us to express genuine emotion without fear of being punished for transcending gender norms. This type of culture of universal respect should be the ideal we’re working toward, not an outdated vision of white knights and damsels in distress.
A few months ago, I wrote a column about a situation I’ve experienced and witnessed more than I’d care for: being the only woman participating in a meeting or project—and thus being expected to become the team’s default administrative assistant. This piece struck a chord with readers of both genders, and many shared experiences that, although not directly related to administrative tasks, fell into the category of ambivalent or benevolent sexism.
Even if you’re not familiar with these terms, you’ve most likely witnessed them firsthand. Ambivalent or benevolent sexism refers to attitudes that view women and men in stereotypical roles, but feel “positive” or even complimentary in nature. Ambivalent or benevolent sexism usually originates in an idealization of traditional gender roles: Women are “naturally” more kind, emotional, and compassionate, while men are “naturally” more rational, less emotional, and “tougher,” mentally and physically. Translated into the workplace, ambivalent or benevolent sexism is behind the assumption that women are naturally better administrative assistants or naturally prepared to organize buying a gift for the boss. Because they’re “better” at it.