Gender & Sexuality

The New Pornographers

AP Images/Rich Pedroncelli
C alifornia passed a law last month to prevent a form of online harassment known as “revenge porn”—explicit images almost exclusively of women posted online by their former partners. The victims of revenge porn are often left without recourse, ignored or extorted by website hosts, and discounted by local authorities who either lack awareness of federal cyber stalking and harassment laws or see little point in pressing charges. Frustrated by lack of recourse, campaigns such as End Revenge Porn have started fighting for state legislation to criminalize the practice. Until the passage of California’s law, New Jersey was the only state that had criminalized revenge porn, and a New York legislator just announced his plan to propose similar legislation last week. Revenge porn is only one form of online harassment that disproportionately affects women and often goes unreported. The attacks can range from threatening and degrading messages to the posting of personal information like home...

Why Liberals Love TV's Fictional Conservatives

AP Images/ABC/Eric McCandless
AP Images/ABC/Eric McCandless When the third season of Scandal premieres tonight, you can bet I’m going to be glued to my set (and Twitter feed) like millions of other Americans. Shonda Rhimes creates mighty good, sexy, nail-biting, oh-my-sweet-God-that-didn’t-just-happen TV. But, good liberal that I am, I can’t help feeling that my love of ABC’s hit show should be attended by some guilt. No, not because what Rhimes calls “fluffier” entertainment is inherently inferior; I don’t feel guilty about it in that sense. But instead because beneath plotlines like that of black political fixer Olivia Pope’s interracial love with the white president and a gay White House Chief of Staff raising a baby with his husband, Scandal is, in essence, the story of an allegedly apolitical (amoral?) woman who routinely abets an illegitimate conservative administration, complete with a radical Evangelical vice-president a heartbeat away from being president. Rhimes and Co. have me rooting for these people...

Daddy's Home!

AP Images/Edmond Terakopian
AP Images/Edmond Terakopian M any mornings this year Matt Nuttall and his friend Ryan Faulkner met up in one of several neighborhood parks located between their houses in Pleasant Hill, California. While they changed diapers, dispensed snacks, and made sure their little ones didn’t fall off the playground equipment, the dads “talked to each other in adult,” as Nuttall puts it. Before too long, their children would begin to fade, and they’d head back to their respective houses to prepare lunch and oversee afternoon naps. “We didn’t do much, just sat around and kept the kids and ourselves from going crazy,” says Nuttall, who teaches ninth- and tenth-grade English at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory in San Francisco. After his wife returned to her job, Nuttall took 12 weeks off from his. For half of that time, he received $945 a week through California’s Paid Family Leave program. The program, which has been in existence since 2004, offers workers up to six weeks off with maximum pay...

The Last of the Late-Term Abortion Providers

After Tiller A t one point early in After Tiller , a new documentary on third-trimester abortion, a counselor at a late-term abortion clinic asks a patient to explain why she wants to terminate her pregnancy just a few months before she gives birth. “My baby’s got a disease, and it’s fatal in a lot of ways,” the woman explains between sobs. The camera zooms in on her hands, clenched around a ball of tissue. “He could be stillborn. He would have a very short life, full of surgeries and seizures until he would pass. He’s not a viable child. The most loving thing I can do is let him go now.” Stories like this echo throughout After Tiller , directed by Martha Shane and Lana Wilson, which opens today in New York City. The film follows the lives and work of the only four doctors in the country who perform abortions in the last trimester of pregnancy. Three of the doctors portrayed in the film—Stacey Sella, Susan Robinson, and LeRoy Carhart—worked for George Tiller, the late-term abortion...

Time to Give America a Raise

AP Photo/Louie Balukoff
I t’s been a good week for the nation’s numerous poverty-wage workers. They’ve been way overdue for a good week. On Tuesday, the Labor Department issued a much anticipated and delayed extension of the federal minimum wage and overtime regulations to the nation’s 2 million homecare workers. Last Thursday, the California legislature passed (and Governor Jerry Brown pledged to sign) a bill that raised the mega-state’s minimum wage from $8-an-hour to $10. Taken together, these two measures limiting poverty-wage work underscore a host of significant changes to the political economy. The Labor Department’s extension of the minimum wage recognizes the growth of homecare as an industry increasingly like any other, with agencies big and small, many relying on partial government subsidies, employing millions of workers. It also signals the continuing extension of federal work standards beyond those that originally covered white men disproportionately. When the Fair Labor Standards Act (which...

A Long Way from the End of Men

AP Photo/Mark Lennihan
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky T hough we’ve technically been recovering from the Great Recession since late 2009, the poverty rate in the United States has been stuck at about 15 percent since 2010. New data released yesterday from the Census Bureau showed that last year wasn’t much better. Poverty rates held steady at the highest levels in a generation. Median incomes have fallen in the last ten years by more than 11 percent. Coupled with recent studies showing that most of the recovery’s gains have gone to the top 1 percent of income earners, the data on poverty confirms what many already knew: Inequality is growing, and the middle class is dying. That’s especially true when you examine the status of women and racial minorities. The median incomes for Asian and white families last year were $68,636 and $57,009 respectively. For Hispanics and blacks, they were $39,005 and $33,321. These incomes are statistically unchanged from 2011, which means that if the economy is growing, the average...

Step Aside, I'm a Doctor

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli
AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, a Democrat from San Diego, urges lawmakers to approve a bill allowing nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, and physician's assistants to perform early-term abortions. I t’s hard to miss the fallout from the barrage of abortion restrictions that came out of state legislatures this year. Four abortion clinics in rural Texas announced plans to close after determining it would be too expensive to comply with a new state law imposing unnecessary medical standards. A clinic in Ohio , where similar laws have been passed, say they may also have to close. Iowa’s telemedicine abortion program —a creative workaround designed to bring first-trimester abortion to women in rural parts of the state—was recently shut down by the state medical board. In states nationwide, the hurdles to access safe, high-quality abortion care are getting higher and higher. But California is bucking the trend. A law that would allow advanced-practice...

Anti-Choicers' New Mexico Experiment

The American Prospect/Chloe Hall; AP Photo
AP Photo/ The Albuquerque Journal, Kitty Clark Fritz; homepage photo by Chloe Hall/The American Prospect Abortion-rights supporters and opponents demonstrate at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. I n early August, several dozen teenagers and a few adult supervisors descended on the Holocaust and Intolerance Museum in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with a request: They wanted the curators to add an exhibit on abortion. When their demand was rebuffed, the teens—who were spending the week in the city as part of a pro-life training camp sponsored by Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust—unfurled a banner outside the building calling Albuquerque “America’s Auschwitz.” The protest catapulted Albuquerque into the national media, but the demonstration is just part of a larger experiment by the recent wave of pro-life activists flocking in from out of state: Can they transform New Mexico—a moderate state with liberal abortion laws—into another reproductive-rights battleground? After a number...

Christianity: Not Just for Haters Anymore

Flickr/lewishamdreamer
Flickr/lewishamdreamer J ohn Shore and his wife Catherine had been attending the First Presbyterian Church of San Diego for six years when they were nominated to serve as deacons. But before they could be ordained, they were asked to sign a document agreeing that no person in a same-sex relationship should hold any position of authority within the church, which is one of the city’s oldest. It was 1990. The couple had never heard the pastor or any of his fellow church-goers talk about homosexuality. "At first I thought she was kidding," John says. "I said something to the effect of, 'Wouldn't it be funny if there really were a document like that?'" John and his wife refused to sign. A few days later, copies of an article the pastor had written calling acceptance of homosexuality a heresy were stacked at the church's entrances. "That's how we learned there was a whole world of Christians out there that doesn't condone homosexuality," he says. Since then, John has dedicated himself to...

Game, Set, Match—Feminism

AP Images
We often talk about athletes "transcending" their particular sport and having a wider cultural impact, but the truth is that becoming rich and famous for your physical feats doesn't have an effect on people that goes beyond entertainment. LeBron James may bring in $60 million a year and have 10 million followers on Twitter, but I doubt that a few decades from now people are going to talk about how much he changed America. Tom Brady may have won three Super Bowls and married a supermodel, but no one looks to him for leadership on critical social issues confronting our nation. This is a good time to consider one of the few exceptions, an athlete whose cultural impact was probably second only to that of Jackie Robinson. Forty years ago this month, Billie Jean King participated in a sporting event like nothing before or since. It was an absurd spectacle, and it could have been disastrous for the cause she championed. When King left the Houston Astrodome after roundly defeating Bobby Riggs...

Chelsea Manning and the Politics of a Pronoun

The end of the Wikileaks trial has led to a much-needed discussion on how the media treat gender.

AP Photo
AP Photo Chelsea Manning I n all the fact-checking I've ever done, I never called up a source and asked, "Just making sure: You're a guy/girl, right?" Nor have I asked to see their genitals, the results of a chromosome test, or their medical records. If the interview was over the phone, I infer from the name and the sound of the person's voice. In the few instances that hasn't been enough, I've turned to Google to see if they have an official headshot that'll provide more clues, or a company bio that settles the matter. In person, you have additional data—the choice of clothes, mannerisms we've come to read as "feminine" or "masculine." In other words, reporters do what everyone else does, and it turns out to be a very un-journalistic thing to do: We go by what we see, take a guess, and assume it's right. Last week's announcement that Bradley Manning—the Army private who was sentenced Wednesday to 35 years in prison for releasing government files to WikiLeaks—is female and now wants...

Total Eclipse of the Fetal Heart

AP Images/Rogelio V. Solis
B y the end of July, it was clear opponents of abortion were going to have a banner year. In the first half of 2013, state legislatures across the country enacted dozens of restrictions on abortion clinics that will slim their hours or shutter them completely. States like Wisconsin and Indiana added requirements like ultrasounds and waiting periods for women seeking the procedure. After a high-profile debate , Texas passed a law that bars abortion after 20 weeks, bringing the total number of states with similar bans to 11. The show’s far from over. Earlier this month, at a press conference that featured the Duggar family of 19 Kids and Counting fame, two Ohio state legislators announced they were restarting the fight for one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country. House Bill 248, generally known as the “Fetal Heartbeat Bill,” was introduced on August 22 in the House Committee on Health and Aging, chaired by the bill’s co-sponsor, state representative Lynn Wachtmann. This...

Not That There's Anything Wrong with That

New Jersey Senate candidate Steve Lonegan, a man's man. (Flickr/Nick Step)
Any time a politician gets past his or her 20s without getting married, the rumors about him or her being gay start to bubble up. That's certainly true of Cory Booker, and has been for some time; I happen to know a friend of a relative who knows a guy who swears he had a serious relationship with Booker. The most common response from the politician is to laugh at the rumors to show how secure he is, but make sure everyone knows that he is, in fact, straight. Which was why it was somewhat refreshing to see Booker say this in a profile in yesterday's Washington Post : "And people who think I'm gay, some part of me thinks it's wonderful. Because I want to challenge people on their homophobia. I love seeing on Twitter when someone says I'm gay, and I say, 'So what does it matter if I am? So be it. I hope you are not voting for me because you are making the presumption that I'm straight.' " But the really interesting thing was how Booker's opponent reacted. That opponent is a testosterone-...

No Sushi for You, Pregnant Lady

Zippaparazza/Flickr
For pregnant women, a trip to the pregnancy-advice section of their local bookstore can be an overwhelming experience. The shelves are stacked high with suggestions and prohibitions for expectant mothers in a nine-month period when everything they do seems to matter. Using hair dye, drinking alcohol or coffee, gardening without gloves, or riding a bike are just a few no-nos on a long list. If women slip up, the consequences seem immense. “You’ve got nine months of meals and snacks with which to give your baby the best possible start in life,” the authors of What to Expect When You’re Expecting write. “Try to make them count. As you raise fork to mouth, consider: ‘Is this a bite that will benefit my baby?’” The problem is, pregnancy-advice books often contradict each other. (Is fish a pregnancy superfood, or a mercury-laced toxin? Is peanut butter a delicious, protein-filled snack or a guarantee that your child will have peanut allergies?) Many aren’t written by experts— What to Expect...

Brian Sims Wants to Fix Pennsylvania

AP Photo
AP Photo Representative Brian Sims, a Democrat, is blocked from speaking on the floor of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives by a colleague citing "God's law." S ince he beat longtime incumbent Babette Josephs in the race to represent Philadelphia’s Center City, Brian Sims has made a name for himself as a strong supporter of LGBT rights. As one of the first openly gay representatives in the state—shortly after he was elected to office, Republican Mike Fleck also came out—he has introduced legislation to legalize same-sex marriage as well as an employment nondiscrimination bill protecting LGBT workers in the state. But Sims is also a strong progressive across the board: He’s voted against privatizing the state’s liquor industry , which he says would kill “good union jobs,” spoken against Republican efforts to restrict access to abortion, and fiercely criticized current Governor Tom Corbett’s massive cuts to education spending. He most recently made headlines after a scuffle on...

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