Gender & Sexuality

No, Ladies—Birth Control Pills Won’t Make You Go Blind

AP Images/Jens Kalaene
Over the course of the past day or so, you may have seen some alarming news: Long-term use of birth control pills, according to a study released at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology , may be linked to glaucoma, one of the leading causes of blindness in the US. If you happen to be one of the more than 80 percent of women who has used oral contraceptives during her life, you’d be forgiven for feeling a little nervous. Long-term contraception is pretty much unavoidable for sexually active women who would rather not get pregnant. The researchers, undoubtedly aware that a link between birth control and blindness would make millions of women just a tad uneasy, were careful to emphasize that their findings are not conclusive. One of the lead authors told NPR that women shouldn't stop using birth control pills based on this study, adding that a lot more work needs to be done to find out if this apparent connection is real or just a coincidence. But most media reports...

White Hot Rage

Sociologist Michael Kimmel explores the history of the aggrieved American male, but fails to capture what drives our age's most prominent discontents: the men's rights movement. 

T he most surprising thing about Michael Kimmel’s new book Angry White Men is that the title was still available. We’ve been hit by wave after wave of angry white dudes for decades, from the so-called “silent majority” of the seventies incensed by “forced busing” and braless “women’s libbers,” to your Tea Partier brother-in-law who’s always forwarding terrible jokes about Obama being born in Kenya. Largely ignoring Tea Partiers and Glenn Beck fans to focus on more extreme examples of angry white manhood, Kimmel, a sociologist at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and an influential writer on masculinity, devotes chapters to such charming folks as white supremacists, domestic abusers, and guys who “snap” and shoot up their schools and workplaces. Kimmel does an excellent job in explaining the whys and wherefores of racist skinheads and violent men and manages to write about some pretty damaged and hateful men with a remarkable degree of empathy. But he doesn’t ever get a...

Liz Cheney's Firm Ideological Consistency

Ah, family. The source of our greatest strength, and our greatest frustrations. Ask yourself: Is there anyone in the world who can more easily put you into a blinding, murderous rage than your siblings? Now what if one of those siblings was running for office, and you could stick it to them? If you had a fight—and not just a fight over something trivial like who should wash the dishes, but a real fundamental fight, like whom Mom loved best, or why he crashed your bike when you told him a hundred times that he could only ride it if he was super-careful, or whether you're worthy of equal rights under the law—would you be tempted to take that fight public? I speak, of course, about Liz Cheney, vice-presidential progeny, proud daughter of the Virginia suburbs—I mean Wyoming, wonderful Wyoming, which has always been home!—and contender for the U.S. Senate from the aforementioned state. According to at least one poll , Cheney is trailing badly in her attempt to unseat conservative...

The Gay Awakening

While Christian leadership has held fast against the changing tide of public opinion on same-sex marriage, congregations have moved on without them.

AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma
AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma Supporters of same-sex marriage outside Camp Innnabah, the Methodist retreat center where Rev. Frank Schaeffer is facing trial for officiating his son's same-sex wedding. A ny other day, Reverend Frank Schaeffer might look out onto the 179 acres of woods at Camp Innabah—a Christian retreat center 40 miles outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania—and stop to ponder God's design in the natural beauty. But today, his mind is on another matter: his trial. "There probably won't be an acquittal," says Schaeffer, who faces losing his credentials to preach in the United Methodist Church, the country's largest mainline protestant denomination. "I just hope the penalty will be restorative rather than punitive." The 51-year-old pastor's crime? Officiating his son's same-sex wedding in 2007. Schaeffer informed the church leadership that he would be performing the ceremony at the time, but disciplinary proceedings were not started against him until last April, when a member...

20-Week Abortion Bans: Coming to a City Near You?

AP Images/ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL/GREG SORBER
AP Images/ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL/GREG SORBER If you want to take a plunge into the roiling id of the anti-choice movement, go to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Tomorrow, the half-million residents of the state's most populous city will vote on a ballot measure that would ban abortion after 20 weeks. Although 13 states have enacted similar laws, if Albuquerque’s measure passes, it will become the first municipality to impose a 20-week abortion ban. Anti-choice activists are gleefully proclaiming the launch of a local rebellion against abortion. A woman made the Albuquerque evening news after handing out anti-abortion propaganda to trick-or-treaters on Halloween. Teenagers protested outside the New Mexico Holocaust and Intolerance Museum, holding signs calling abortion a modern-day genocide. Hundreds of thousands of dollars from national groups on both sides of the issue have blanketed the city with television and radio ads. Some local residents seem more befuddled than galvanized. “I don’t even...

Gillibrand Steps Up for Working Women

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
At the end of September, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced her Opportunity Plan promoting progressive economic policies for women. The plan includes Gillibrand’s proposed FAMILY Act. The legislation builds upon the 1993 Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which allows certain workers—public-sector employees or private-sector ones who have been employed for at least a year—to take unpaid leave for child care or health reasons. Under Gillibrand’s proposed legislation, all workers—no matter the size of their company, duration of their employment, or number of hours worked in the past year—would be able take up to 12 weeks of paid leave. Modeled after state additions to temporary disability insurance (TDI) programs in California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, her plan would require 0.2 percent deposits of employee earnings to be matched by employer contributions in a Social Security Administration fund. Workers would then receive up to 66 percent of their earnings when they took...

"Religious Liberty": The Next Big Front in the Culture Wars

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite Senator Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat from Wisconsin and the chamber's first openly gay member, is surrounded by fellow Democrats just before a historic vote on legislation outlawing workplace discrimination against gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. I n a historic vote yesterday, the Senate passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which outlaws workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. First introduced in 1994, when the legislation failed to pass the chamber by a single vote, ENDA succeeded in securing enough support from Republicans to pass after adopting an amendment by Rob Portman. The Ohio senator’s amendment strengthens the bill’s existing protections for religious and religiously affiliated organizations, specifying that government entities cannot retaliate against groups exempted from the law. Protections for religious organizations have become a standard part of gay-rights legislation; they are...

12 Years a Female Slave—Not Coming to a Theatre Near You

We can't fully understand American slavery and its legacy without mining the diversity of enslaved experience in scholarship as well as film.

AP Images/Fox Searchlight
AP Images/Fox Searchlight O nce again, America is reckoning with its original sin of slavery—this time with the critically-acclaimed movie, Twelve Years a Slave, which had its nationwide release last week. The movie has been lauded for its uniquely unflinching look at the brutality and inhumanity of slavery. What is not so unique about the unquestionably affecting film is that it tells the story of an enslaved man . When will we see a mainstream, big screen film that explores American slavery from an enslaved black woman’s perspective? The few cinematic glimpses into the black, female slave experience have been rendered mostly through independent films and television or as a part of stories more broadly focused than slavery. The 1974 TV movie, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman , based on the Ernest Gaines book, begins with the eponymous Jane being freed post-Civil War. Cicely Tyson, the actress who portrayed Pittman, also played escaped slave and abolitionist Harriet Tubman in...

Boob Jam: Keeping Abreast of a Changing Gaming World

The debate over depictions of women in video games has basically boiled down to “big boobs bad, small boobs good!” A few developers hope to change that.

Theboobjam.com
F ew things fan the fire in video-game culture quite like boobs. It started with Lara Croft in Tomb Raider. By the mid-1990s, games had detailed graphics and characters modeled in three dimensions. Lara came along at the right time. With her rather inflated attributes, she became the poster child for video games as they moved into an era of aggressively courting teenaged boys with sex and violence. It became accepted wisdom until quite recently that games that were actually respectful of women needed to have them be well-clothed and small-bosomed. If, on the other hand, a female video-game character had a large pixelated chest, the game was probably a dumb, anti-feminist male power fantasy. The Boob Jam Tumblr Perhaps the purest expression of this line of thought came from indie game developer Ryan Creighton, who described his efforts at feminism in his game Spellirium thusly: “I patted myself on the back for asking our character designer to give her a small chest, and for marring her...

Oklahoma's Abortion Battle Goes National

AP Images/Peter Morrison
(AP Photo/J. David Ake) O n Tuesday, the Oklahoma Supreme Court handed down a ruling that will help determine how the U.S. Supreme Court handles its next big abortion case. But Cline v. Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice hasn’t been scheduled for oral arguments just yet. The law in question, which deals with abortion-inducing drugs, was messily written, leaving room for considerable doubt about whether the state of Oklahoma intended to require doctors to follow a particular set of dosage requirements (the state attorney’s argument)—or ban the use of the drugs for abortion entirely (the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice’s argument). When it accepted the case, the U.S. Supreme Court sent it back to the Oklahoma court for clarification about the law’s original aim. After several months of deliberation, the Oklahoma justices decided that the law effectively bans all medication-induced abortions by prohibiting the use of one crucial drug. Now, the U.S. Supreme Court will...

A Look Inside the 'Men's Rights' Movement That Helped Fuel California Alleged Killer Elliot Rodger

Flickr/ liquidpremium This article was originally published on October 24, 2013, under the title: " A Good Men’s Rights Movement Is Hard to Find." O nly once the production crew taped the microphone on my dress did I have second thoughts. As part of an upcoming 20/20 special, I’d agreed to a sit-down with Paul Elam. Elam is founder and publisher of A Voice For Men (AVFM), one of the main hubs for the burgeoning “men’s rights’ movement.” In a blog post on the organization’s site , he made his feelings clear: “I find you, as a feminist, to be a loathsome, vile piece of human garbage. I find you so pernicious and repugnant that the idea of fucking your shit up gives me an erection.” This was not going to be a productive conversation. With the cameras rolling, I told Elam that it was hard to know how to engage with someone who hates you so much it turns him on. He waved the statement away, saying he’d made it in the heat of conversation (this despite the fact that “Fuck Their Shit Up” is...

The Supreme Court v. Civil RIghts

The disturbing failure to prosecute alleged rapists in Maryville, Missouri, represents an all-too-common failure of American legal systems. In The Nation , Jill Filipovic has a must-read article highlighting another part of the problem: the Supreme Court. The Court's conservative justices have taken a federal remedy away from sexual-assault victims, in a case that represents a pattern in the Republican war on civil-rights enforcement. As Filipovic details, U.S. v. Morrison resulted from a case in which Virginia Tech student Christy Brzonkala was allegedly raped by two members of the school's football team, one of whom for all intents and purposes conceded that he had nonconsensual sex with Brzonkala. One alleged assaulter was acquitted entirely by the school's disciplinary process. Morrison had a one-year suspension for sexual assault lifted, and then had a one-year suspension under Virginia Tech's Abusive Conduct policy (after the alleged assault he had told Brzonkala "you better not...

Popping the Pill's Bubble

AP Images/THE JONES INSTITUTE
A s the Affordable Care Act creaks into gear—and the Obama administration sends its armies of tech elves into the back end of the Healthcare.gov website to deal with the glitches—newly insured women can, for the first time, begin to start thinking about what kind of birth control they want , rather than what they can afford. Under Obamacare, all forms of female contraception will be offered without a co-pay to insured women as part of a larger package of preventive-care services. The logic behind the “contraception mandate” is so simple it’s hard to believe insurers didn’t come up with it themselves. If women can choose a form of birth control that works for them, without worrying about the cost, they’ll be less likely to get pregnant, saving insurance companies thousands of dollars in sonograms and prenatal vitamins. Obamacare has the potential to end the birth control pill’s dominance over the contraceptive market. More than 8 in 10 women will use a contraceptive pill at least once...

Jezebel Grew Up

Nikola Tamindzic
Nikola Tamindzic/Jezebel T he website Jezebel was born in 2007 out of the idea that the urban (or at least urbane) American woman was a ripe demographic, yearning to read about pop culture, fashion, and sex in a more skeptical way than the package provided by the traditional glossy women’s magazine. “In media, men are not a coherent sect,” Internet entrepreneur and Machiavellian overlord of Gawker Media Nick Denton told The New York Times in 2010. “You go into a magazine store and see rows upon rows of women’s magazines. [With women], there’s a much clearer collective.” The mother ship blog of Denton’s empire, Gawker, had made its name in the aughts by obsessively covering the then-Manhattan-centric media scene, turning its cool kids into Internet celebrities, their lives and movements chronicled, snarked at, and used as signifiers for Gotham’s ills and triumphs. Gawker media expanded to include a consortium of blogs focused on everything from sports (Deadspin) to gadgets (Gizmodo)...

Closing the Gender Gap in the Fed's Hallowed Halls

AP Images/Charles Dharapak
J anet Yellen, President Obama’s superb pick to be the next chair of the Federal Reserve, should have been a shoo-in all along. In fact, it was widely thought this past spring that, as vice chair of the Federal Reserve, she was the most likely candidate to replace Ben Bernanke when his term as chair was scheduled to end early in 2014. But in the months before October 9, when she stood beaming next to President Obama in the White House as he finally announced her as his pick to succeed Bernanke, a curious campaign had emerged to nominate Larry Summers, a close economic advisor to the president, for the position. The Summers push received copious media coverage, reportedly fueled by senior White House advisors. As summer reached its doldrums, journalists began reporting that high-level White House advisors worried that Yellen lacked “gravitas,” was too “soft-spoken,” or might not be good in a crisis. A few journalists pointed out that these coded words suggested sexism. (The gender...

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