XX Factor

The Unslut Project

Emily Lindin posts her journal entries from her sixth-grade year, when everyone at her school decided she was a slut. Terrifying and sad, but it's a bold effort on her part to inspire and achieve catharsis.

He said, “Why not? Come on.” I told him I wasn’t sure I trusted him enough, and he promised me he wouldn’t dump me. During this chat, it became perfectly clear to me that he was drunk. Those few shots we had had earlier in Matt’s dining room had really done a lot for him. [...]

But he was on top of me and I didn’t want to disappoint him.

Via XX Factor.

Pay Gap Narrows For Female Magazine Editors

In 2008, the average salary for men in the magazine business who held the title of editor or executive editor was $75,500, while the average pay for women in the same position was $56,400. But in 2012, that gap closed, with men making an average of $84,200, and women $85,700. And when looking at all magazine-editor categories combined, women’s salaries rose at a greater rate than men’s. Even if that bump is attributable to a few women taking on high-paying editing jobs at the top of the income spectrum, rather than to across-the-board gains, that’s still a sign that women are moving up the ladder to positions where they have more control as well as more money.

The pay gap among the rank-and-file of magazine employees remains significant, and higher up the ladder it reappears:

Women who hold the title of managing or senior editor made an average of $58,200 in 2012, while men earned $63,600. And it gets worse higher up the masthead, where the average male editorial director or editor-in-chief was taking home $100,800 in 2012 to his female counterpart’s $85,100, a divide that’s actually bigger than the $11,600 that separated those averages in 2008.

So pretty mitigated good news, but good news nonetheless.

Romantic Comedies Aren't What They Used to Be. Good.

Responding to this lament on the state of the romantic comedy, Alyssa Rosenberg of XX Factor attributes the genre’s recent lackluster quality to a failure to mine the depth of human romance:

The genuinely strong romantic comedies of the last decade or so have ventured inward for obstacles, rather than inventing ludicrous external ones. In romantic comedies as in third-wave feminism, the proliferation of choices has forced protagonists to figure out what they really want, leaving indecision, self-doubt, and even arrested development as rich fodder.

She goes on to cite Bridesmaids, which is not technically a romantic comedy (although it has a love interest for its main character), and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, a rom-com hybrid. I’d venture to include other hybrids, such as bromances like Baby Mama or I Love You, Man or romantic dramedies like Friends With Kids as examples of funny, successful movies built on realistic, relatable characters instead of outrageous or kooky premises.

Do Women Talk More Than Men?

No.

For every study showing women talk more, there’s another showing men talk more. After a while, it becomes difficult to deny that individual preference and environmental pressures have more influence than gender on how much talking people do.

Amanda Marcotte suggests that we continue to believe this trope because of confirmation bias; conventional wisdom tells us women talk more, so we keep noticing anecdotal evidence in support of this belief.

Study: The Sexes Aren't So Different After All

A study recently compiled by Bobbi Carothers and Harry Reis, who analyzed data from 13,301 men and women, finds significant overlap between the sexes on a number of characteristics commonly thought to be split fairly evenly by gender. Examples include:

  • desire to have sex with multiple partners

  • frequency of masturbation

  • willingness to have sex outside of a relationship

  • empathy for others

  • caring about close relationships

  • closeness with a best friend

  • fear of being too successful (as measured by agreement with statements like “Often the cost of success is greater than the reward”)

  • interest in science

The entire study is here, if you’re curious.

Via XX Factor.

"False Accusations" v. "False Reports"

On Monday I posted an infographic purporting to show the ratio of false rape accusations to actual rapes. Yesterday, Amanda Marcotte of XX Factor debunked several of its claims and the rationale by which its creators arrived at their conclusions.

I agree with her reasoning, so it does seem like the infographic is misleading and could be greatly improved. But, as Marcotte says, the fundamental message remains true:

It is true that most rapes go unreported, that the public believes false accusations are exponentially more common than they actually are, and that a man’s chances of being falsely accused of rape are incredibly small. All these things are important to convey, and an infographic is a great way to do it. Just fix the graphic, and the public will learn a lot.

♀ Happy Now?

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While standing around the fire pit at the Stauffer clan Thanksgiving, someone asked me if I thought women were happier because of feminism.

Because of personal history, I knew the subtext of the question was, “I think women are actually less happy”, so I responded accordingly, and in two parts. I’ll tell you part two later. Part one was, “Yes, women may be less happy now than they were before second-wave feminism.”[1]

On Monday, Fox News published an op-ed piece by Suzanne Venker called “The War on Men”,[2] in which Venker contends that feminism has left men marginalized and angry, resulting in a waning interest in marriage among the male population. As you can imagine, it was highly inflammatory and anti-feminist, containing such straw-man statements as:

In a nutshell, women are angry. They’re also defensive, though often unknowingly. That’s because they’ve been raised to think of men as the enemy. Armed with this new attitude, women pushed men off their pedestal (women had their own pedestal, but feminists convinced them otherwise) and climbed up to take what they were taught to believe was rightfully theirs.

Now the men have nowhere to go.

It is precisely this dynamic—women good/men bad—that has destroyed the relationship between the sexes. Yet somehow, men are still to blame when love goes awry. Heck, men have been to blame since feminists first took to the streets in the 1970s.

I won’t deconstruct this or the many other problematic parts of the article; we’d be here all day. Feel free to read these excellent responses by Hanna Rosin at XX Factor, Sharon Hodde Miller at Her.meneutics, and David Sessions at Patrol Magazine. The crux of the piece for my purposes occurs near the beginning and appears to be Venker’s thesis:

I’ve accidentally stumbled upon a subculture of men who’ve told me, in no uncertain terms, that they’re never getting married. When I ask them why, the answer is always the same.

Women aren’t women anymore.

Translation: “Women aren’t women anymore according to the defined gender roles to which these men subscribe.”

Venker goes on to argue that not only men but women also are less happy because of feminism, being less likely to find a man with whom they can settle down and start having the babies we know all women crave. So, in a backwards kind of way, Venker and I agree: women are—or may be—less happy now than in the 1950s.[3] Our accord ends there, though.

I think women (and men) may have been happier before the advent of feminism not because they were better off but because rigidly-prescribed roles—including gender roles—feel comfortable and safe and give people a sense of purpose and direction, provided they thoroughly believe in the underlying truth behind those roles. For example, one of the things I like about Christianity is that it tells me something about who I am—in relation to God, society, and other people.[4] By knowing who I am, I become empowered to make ethical, moral, and practical choices, the building blocks we use to construct our lives. Similarly, patriarchy—and complementarianism, its more soft-hearted younger brother—tells men and women even more specifically who they are, based on their anatomy.[5]

When we began to abandon “traditional” gender roles, we lost that feeling of comfort and security they provided.[6] Women must now, to a much greater extent, figure out for themselves who they are, and that can feel scary and isolating. Correspondingly, men must also define themselves without the assistance of clear gender definition; the difference in their lot from that of women is that they have, by and large, resisted doing so. The male rage to which Venker alludes, to the extent that it actually exists, results from this unwillingness to accept that society is no longer going to spot them 50% of the data they need to understand themselves and find success in life.

Of course, when men are unhappy and angry, women will be, too. We all occupy the same society, and many women would like to team up with a man for marriage and family, as well as for the “mutual society, help, and comfort” mentioned by The Book of Common Prayer. When, therefore, men respond to the disappearance of defined gender roles with recalcitrance and resentment, women suffer. Moreover, because men have for so long controlled—and continue, to a great extent, to control—our societal structures, the very systems we operate in and depend on contribute to the undermining of women’s happiness.

So: yes, it is possible that women are less happy now as a result of the advances of feminism. Let us at least assume, for the sake of argument, that this is true. That’s part one of my answer to the question posed to me on Thanksgiving.

Part two is: Even if women are less happy, it’s a good unhappiness that will ultimately give way to even greater happiness. As I said before, rigidly-defined roles only provide security, comfort, and direction if people thoroughly believe in them. In the 1960s women began to lose their belief in prescribed gender roles, and with good reason. The evolutionary need for such roles had evaporated; no longer did the survival of the species depend on the physically-stronger half hunting and killing lots of animals and protecting the weaker half (and the children) against the violence of both aggressive outsiders and the elements. Moreover, the predominant religion of the mid-century West[7], despite popular misperception surviving to this day, has little to say about gender roles, and protestations to the contrary began to ring hollow in the face of the gut feeling that only arbitrary existing power structures were dictating the course of women’s lives.

I believe that rigid gender roles are false at a fundamental level—that both men and women should be free to choose the direction of their lives independently of their body parts. If this is true, not only is women’s present theoretical unhappiness a good unhappiness, but their former happiness was bad happiness, the kind of “happiness” people claimed on behalf of antebellum Southern slaves or serfs in the feudal system of medieval Europe.[8]

Furthermore, assuming (as I do) that feminism continues to gain ground, eventually resulting in true equality between men and women, I believe that both sexes will be even happier—each individual being absolutely free to choose his or her destiny without the constraints of anatomy and to marry and raise children—or not—for reasons that having nothing to do with societally-reinforced dependencies.

That goal seems worth some short-term—and on a historical scale, several decades or even a century are the “short term”—unhappiness for everyone.





  1. Stick with me. I know I say this over and over, but it bears repeating: I’m still pretty new at the feminism. That means I may occasionally—or frequently—make dumb, ill-informed, anti-feminist, or just plain inaccurate statements. So anyone who knows better may feel free to tell me exactly how wrong I’m about to be.  ↩

  2. I refuse to submit to the non-title-case spelling of the original headline.  ↩

  3. On Tuesday, The Daily Beast published the results of an interview with Venker, in which she claims she was misunderstood. Her semi-coherent explanation of her actual meaning does little to undermine the inherent sexism and logical weakness of her position, but I mention it in the name of fairness.  ↩

  4. Most people probably feel this way about their religion of choice.  ↩

  5. I use the word “anatomy” advisedly, because I do not think that “gender” is as clear-cut a concept as many would have us believe.  ↩

  6. Not all loss is bad. Or, more accurately, some loss is necessary. As Steve Jobs said, “Death is nature’s change agent.”  ↩

  7. I realize I am being very ethnocentric, but I don’t feel qualified to discuss the history of any other culture.  ↩

  8. Although, of course, both these groups suffered worse conditions than mid-century Western women.  ↩

War on Men

In a move they must have thought clever and original, Fox News has published a piece called “The war on men”. This obviously infuriates me, because WHY DON’T PEOPLE CAPITALIZE THEIR HEADLINES ANY MORE?

The op-ed article is by Suzanne Venker, a real live woman, so you know that what she’s saying isn’t sexist. Or totally asinine, because women are never dumb, either.

Toward the finish, Venker calls out Hanna Rosin, author of The End of Men, who fortunately knows not to take herself too seriously. She responds over at XX Factor:

I talked to hundreds of men and pondered their stuckness, their general sense that they were ill equipped for the modern economy and didn’t quite know how to fix that. I arrived at an imperfect explanation that men were suffering from some kind of “masculine mystique,” trapped in an all too narrow set of social roles which were no longer serving them well. What I did not consider was that the true and complete answer was right under my nose, or more precisely, all over my face, staring back at me from the mirror. The reason men could not move forward was ME.

Questions For the FBI

Emily Bazelon of XX Factor bypasses all the slut-shaming and titillating speculation of the Petraeus scandal and focuses on questions that matter much, much more. For example:

Did the government get a warrant to search Paula Broadwell’s email account? Conflicting reports on this one, as Julian Sanchez has noted. The Wall Street Journal says yes but Reuters says no: “The FBI investigation into the emails was fairly straightforward and did not require obtaining court orders to monitor the email accounts of those involved, including the personal email account of Petraeus.” What? Yes, the FBI can read the emails Kelley turned over to them without a warrant. But to go snooping further, shouldn’t investigators have to get one? This is not a legal nicety. Warrants are the basic constitutional check on the power of law enforcement and prosecutors to search and seize.

If we’re going to obsess over the fallout of a high-ranking government official’s sexual infidelity, let’s do it for the right reasons.

I Spoke Out, Then Came the Rape Threats

Rebecca Watson, prominent skeptic, details how—shockingly—atheists are no better at being awesome to women than religious people:

I made the grave mistake of responding to a fellow skeptic’s YouTube video in which he stated that male circumcision was just as harmful as female genital mutilation (FGM). I replied to say that while I personally am opposed to any non-medical genital mutilation, FGM is often much, much more damaging than male circumcision.

The response from male atheists was overwhelming. This is one example:

“honestly, and i mean HONESTLY.. you deserve to be raped and tortured and killed. swear id laugh if i could”