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Author: pandagon

Covering international news, feminist and politic issues and everything else that catches the panda's eye.


Many people will love Divergent, the new Hunger Games-style science-fiction movie that arrives Friday in theaters: fans of the blockbuster young-adult novel by Veronica Roth on which the film is based; fans of actress Shailene Woodley, who plays Roth’s nonconformist heroine Tris; fans of a post-apocalyptic future in which the Earth’s remaining human beings wall themselves off inside the ruins of a major metropolis (in this case, Chicago) and split up into five factions (Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Dauntless, and Erudite) designed to “keep the peace.”

One person who won’t love Divergent, however, is Hillary Clinton.

As the former first lady, 2008 Democratic presidential candidate, and Obama Administration Secretary of State prepares—inevitably, inexorably—to make one last bid for the Oval Office in 2016, it’s unlikely that she has the time to concern herself with what’s happening in the movies. But the movies, it seems, are concerned about what’s happening with her.

Consider Divergent. In the film, Kate Winslet plays a character named Jeanine Matthews. Actually, “character” is too weak a word. “Villain” is more like it. The leader of the brainy Erudite clan, Matthews plots to overthrow the reigning Abnegation government and seize power by injecting into the Dauntless faction a computerized serum that transforms the city’s brave defenders into an army of suggestible, sleepwalking drones. She believes that a strong, hyper-rational central government is the only way to keep human nature’s less savory impulses in check. She takes pains to affect a compassionate, concerned demeanor that nonetheless always feels calculated and self-interested.

Oh, and she just happens to have a Middle-American accent, blonde, bobbed hair, a matronly figure, and a closet full of long, collarless pantsuits.

In short, Matthews looks and acts exactly like Hillary Clinton—or at least Hillary Clinton as imagined by the conservative contingent at Comic Con.

Matthews isn’t alone. In Neil Blomkamp’s 2013 sci-fi action thriller Elysium, Matt Damon faces off against Delacourt, the Defense Secretary of the titular space habitat—a luxurious colony where the One Percent live in absolute comfort while the citizens of a devastated Earth are oppressed by brutal robots. Like Matthews, Delacourt plots to oust the current leadership (i.e., her boss, President Patel) and take control of the government with the help of advanced computer technology (i.e., program developed by a private defense contractor that can override Elysium’s core systems). She’s also a middle-aged woman with cropped blonde hair, a cool, martial demeanor, and a penchant for pantsuits. And later this year, Julianne Moore will star in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 1 as President Alma Coin: another cold, calculating, devious, power-hungry, besuited, light-haired woman leader who “will do whatever it takes to attain her goals.”

Why are all these Hillary Clinton caricatures suddenly showing up on the big screen? Women, of course, have been movie villains before. But this new crop of hyperbolic Clintonistas seems different. All of them live in the future. All of them are political leaders. All of them preside over dystopic societies. And unlike Catwoman, or Alex Forrest, or Satánico Pandemonium—or the vast majority of cinematic bad girls, to be honest—none of them use their sexuality to get what they want. Instead they use power, technology, and intellect.

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Summit/Getty

Some critics will say that we should interpret the sudden big-screen appearance of Jeanine Matthews, Secretary Delacourt, and President Alma Coin—leaders who happen to resemble Barack Obama’s likeliest successor—as a sign that we’re still very, very uncomfortable with the prospect of putting a woman in charge. What these movies prove, they will add, is that America is still afraid of women like Clinton. Women who are tough, brilliant, and plainly ambitious. Women who don’t conform to society’s sexual expectations. Women who try to run the world rather than seduce it. We are so stressed out about the havoc these women will wreak on the future, the argument will go, that we’ve begun to subconsciously channel our anxieties into science fiction.

Perhaps. But it’s worth considering whether the opposite may be true instead: that we’re encountering more Clinton clones on screen because we’re actually becoming more comfortable with female leaders off screen. That the rise of the Hillaryesque sci-fi villain is a sign of growth, not statis. Science fiction tends to reflect reality, exaggerating it to make a point. But for most of movie history, an antagonist like Jeanine Matthews would have seemed too far-fetched, even for sci-fi; she wouldn’t have mirrored anything in the real world. Now she does.

After all, equality cuts both ways. It used to be that the only political villains we could conjure up were men. Now it’s just as easy to imagine a woman scheming and spinning her way to the top. In its own funny way, that seems like progress.


Actress Demi Lovato called out pop star Lady Gaga on her recent SXSW performance with “professional vomit painter” Millie Brown, accusing the pop star of “glamorizing” eating disorders. Lovato, who received treatment for bulimia in 2010, found the performance more than distasteful—she felt it harmful for Gaga fans to see self-induced vomit glorified. Gaga is known for her kooky and sometimes questionable antics, but as Lovato pointed out, claiming to have an eating disorder doesn’t give you license to replicate it on stage. As Lovato adeptly pointed out, making art is not a blanket excuse for, well, anything.

Via the Guardian


Silicon Valley is having to cope with yet more damaging allegations of harassment and sexism as a prominent engineer accuses her company of creating a hostile work environment that led to her resignation.

Julie Ann Horvath, who was a developer with GitHub, made the allegations public on Twitter and in an interview with technology blog TechCrunch over the weekend.

GitHub, which has raised $100 million in funding, said Sunday night that it would conduct an investigation into Horvath’s claims. The company also said it had placed a co-founder and an engineer on leave.

“I would like to personally apologize to Julie,” GitHub co-founder Chris Wanstrath wrote in the blog post. “It’s certain that there were things we could have done differently.”

Horvath responded on Twitter. “I’m glad it’s being addressed now, but don’t congratulate and praise an org that knew and refused to act for over a year,” she said.

She added: “Nothing will be resolved on my end until both of those men are asked to step down.”

GitHub is just the latest tech company accused of sexism. High-profile voices including Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg have spoken up in recent years to urge the industry to make women feel welcome and supported in Silicon Valley.

The tech industry may be famous for its bravado about changing the world, but it lags behind other industries in its treatment of women, many of whom say they routinely confront sexism.

Horvath’s revelations came as a surprise because she had publicly promoted GitHub as a good place for women to work.

She joined the company in 2012 and headed up Passion Projects, a group that promotes the work of women developers.

But behind the scenes, Horvath told TechCrunch that she was subjected to a pattern of gender discrimination.

Her male colleagues judged her work based on her gender, she said. A male engineer whom she rejected romantically retaliated by removing lines of code from her projects, she said. She recalled male colleagues gawking at two female employees hula-hooping. And she said the wife of a co-founder harassed and intimidated her.

“Every employee deserves a safe work environment and to be respected by their peers,” Horvath said on Twitter.

Horvath did not respond to a request for comment. GitHub also did not respond.

“GitHub has grown incredibly fast over the past two years, bringing a new set of challenges,” Wanstrath said in the blog post. “Nearly a year ago we began a search for an experienced HR Lead and that person came on board in January 2014. We still have work to do. We know that.”


Model Elliott Sailors has announced that she has reinvented herself as a male model after years of successfully modeling womenswear with the Ford agency. Since male models have longer careers than their female counterparts, Sailors took the drastic step of cutting her hair, binding her breasts and modeling as a man when she saw her job prospects withering at the age of 30. The media has been transfixed by Sailors’ transformation: She’s been covered by talk shows and news outlets around the world, where she has been celebrated for pushing the boundaries of gender fluidity. The collective fascination with Sailors reveals how transgressive it still is for a heterosexual woman to project a masculine identity.

In the midst of the fray, Katy Waldman of Slate accused Sailors of exploiting transgender narratives in order to further her career, writing, “To appropriate the trans/transition narrative when really all you intend to do is playact a different gender for the camera is just silly. Cut it out.” But Waldman’s accusation does not consider the complexities of gender identification that Sailors has experienced and, more broadly, it does not make room for the possibility that women may genuinely desire to embody masculinity without seeking gender reassignment.

When I spoke with Sailors, she explained that her decision to reinvent herself was not motivated purely by a desire to continue working in fashion. “As a model, there is a lot of direction that comes from the [modeling] agency in terms of how to present yourself,” she says. “This is something I took on outside of conversations with the agency. This is something I did on my own.” Indeed, she had been toying with the idea of gender transformation for many years, driven by a strong feeling that her identity is not encapsulated by traditional femininity. “I don’t identify as a man, but I don’t identify with feminine ways of being either,” she says. “For me, wearing a dress and heels always feels like ‘dressing up.’” Outside her modeling work, Sailors has always been more comfortable wearing men’s clothing. “I have purchased more menswear since doing this, but this is exactly the same kind of clothing that I would have worn before.” Sailors says that she is regularly identified as a man when she walks around Manhattan. “I am excited when people make the mistake sometimes because it means this is working,” she says. “People are realizing that my energy is inclusive of masculine energy.”

As many have noted, gender identity and sexual orientation are not one and the same — and Sailors’ transformation sends a liberating message to women who do not feel entirely at home within the trappings of femininity. Since taking on her new appearance, Sailors has heard from many other heterosexual women who are grateful they are not alone in yearning for more fluid gender identities. However, she makes it clear that she does not expect all women to want to embody masculine characteristics. “A lot of people don’t necessarily feel that their experience of themselves includes more than the gender that they were born into,” she asserts. “I don’t blame anybody else for not doing what I have done.”

When strangers recognize that Sailors is a woman, they often think she is lesbian, because it seems impossible to them that a straight woman would choose to dress in a way that might turn off straight men. “They feel like I am approachable and treat me like I’m one of the boys,” she says. “When they find out that I’m not lesbian, they don’t know whether to talk to me as a man or as a woman.” She also describes more offensive encounters she has had with men who express entitlement toward her sexuality. “I’ve had guys come up to me on the street, saying, ‘It’s so unfortunate that you’re a lesbian.’ In other words, they’re saying, ‘You’re good looking; it’s too bad that I can’t have you.’”

Sailors’ androgyny forces other people to think about the gendered nature of their everyday encounters. She told me about a photo shoot where an assistant on set expressed confusion about how he should approach her physically, since he usually hugged women and shook hands with men. “It’s becoming a conversation about how people perceive gender and what they feel comfortable with,” she says. Last week, at a nightclub, a man bumped into her and kept reassessing his relationship with her as his understanding of her gender identity changed. “He said, ‘Sorry, buddy, I mean, sweetheart,’ and when he saw I was with my husband he became very apologetic and said, ‘Honey, I didn’t mean anything by that,’” she recalls. Although not by design, Sailors’ transformation has become a kind of sociological experiment that leads to discussions about why people relate to men and women so differently.

Sailors’ husband has embraced her decision, even though it means that he is sometimes mistaken for a gay man when they are out together as a couple. The two have had homophobic slurs hurled in their direction. “He reacts much in the same way that I do, not taking it as a personal insult,” says Sailors. Many other men would not be so agreeable with this situation. In fact, Thomas Matt pointed out how frequently transgender women experience violence when they come out to their partners in part because those partners are suddenly in a position to be perceived as homosexual. Straight men’s anxiety about being read as gay may contribute to women’s choice to embody feminine qualities, even when they would be more comfortable with masculine forms of gender expression.

In her commentary, Waldman accused Sailors of scheming to “drape what is finally a perfectly pragmatic career decision in the drama of real-life gender reassignment.” But Sailors has never represented her transformation as a transgender struggle and is outspoken in her support of trans rights. “I’m obviously not claiming to be male,” Sailors tells me. “There wasn’t a particular community I was looking to be part of. At the same time, I have so much respect and appreciation for the trans community.” Indeed, she’s aware that the backlash she’s gotten since changing her appearance is only a fraction of what trans people face. “There are people who have made slurring remarks (at me) and it breaks my heart, because this is something that many others deal with on a regular basis,” she says. “I’ve only had this haircut for a year, but I can’t imagine what it would have been like in junior high, for example, dealing with people saying such unkind things.”

Some trans writers and activists say they celebrate Sailors’ decision to cross-dress. Vivienne Ming, chief data scientist at the tech company Gild, who has shared her story of transition, told me, “I think her work as a ‘male’ model is fine. It’s a work decision for which I can find no fault, no evidence of farce. She looks terrific as a guy, and I’m envious of her in both directions.” D.M., a Boston-based transgender activist, says, “In many ways, all modeling is drag, all the time. Elliott isn’t appropriating an identity, but experiencing some parts of what it means to be trans, particularly in the discomfort, however superficial and fleeting, of incongruity.” D.M. argues that as long as they’re not engaging in mockery, non-trans people can help to normalize cross-dressing, thereby making society more accepting toward the trans community.

Sailors says her choice isn’t about co-opting other people’s stories or sexuality. “I believe in taking things at face value and not giving things meaning that isn’t there,” she says. She argues that her transformation is much more about being empowered, as a straight woman, to express her gender identity in ways that feel comfortable to her. “This is about authenticity and being able to accept yourself for who you want to be,” says Sailors. “Transformation is really possible at any point. You’re not limited to whoever it was you were the day before.”

By Elizabeth Segran.


In her new book, ‘The XX Factor,’ Alison Wolf examines the rise of the working woman and why the beauty advantage has a real impact on office politics – except in the few cases where it’s a hindrance.

Just the other day, at a London event, I heard a well-known female columnist singing the praises of a recent program on the BBC. There had been three economists discussing the latest dismal news, she said, all women, and the moderator was female too. “And they were all so nice and polite and kept saying how much they admired the others’ work. Not like men would be at all.”

Well, maybe. Perhaps the producers just failed to find a good cross section of economic opinion that evening. Two weeks after that conversation I was at a symposium in Amsterdam. There were three economists on the platform, all male; and the moderator was male as well. And they were all very nice and very polite and they all kept praising each other’s work as well.

There is some much-publicized evidence that “women don’t ask” for a high starting salary, a raise, a promotion, in situations where men would. There is also well-publicized research suggesting that, in specially staged competitive environments, women are more likely than men to shy away from competition, and men to embrace it. There’s evidence that higher testosterone levels lead to greater risk-taking and, on real trading floors, are associated with greater success. And then there is a whole wealth of evidence showing that boys tend to be much more physically aggressive and openly competitive than girls in the way they play, and in their liking for teams, games and keeping score.

It is this sort of research that leads some people to argue that women will never break through glass ceilings without special help; and others to speculate that, if there had been more women involved in finance (“Lehman Sisters”), the banking crashes of 2008 would never have happened.

Yet overall, the evidence from psychology is—as so often—surprisingly mixed. Women don’t always hold back in mixed company; and even when the men are clearly competing harder, the absolute differences are not always as large as you might imagine from the headlines. As for “not asking,” being less aggressive at work, more risk-averse: yes, the evidence suggests there are male–female differences, and yes, they may be hardwired. But we also know that young men and women these days earn the same, like for like. So even if there are these differences, they don’t seem to be having any very serious effects.

On balance, young women today probably benefit from the sexual signals and sexual dynamics of the mixed workplace. And certainly all the successful young women I interviewed for this book were attractive too. That wasn’t my intention: my interviewees were friends of friends, colleagues of colleagues. But every single one was slim and groomed, with good hair, good skin and good clothes. I would also bet a lot of money that, if I’d been interviewing their male counterparts, I’d have found almost exactly the same thing: maybe a couple of exceptions, but no more than that.

Being good-looking, being slim and radiating good health are all sexually attractive. But the signaling involved goes well beyond the sexual, because the things to which men and women respond are not random sexually or otherwise. They have bedded down in our species because they are signs of a general “fitness.”

People with certain characteristics are likely to make good mates because they are more likely to be healthy, long-lived and successful. They seem likely not just to breed but also to keep the children alive and well. But as humans, our adult lives are about a lot more than reproduction and giving the impression that you are a good bet as a parent. In these other parts of our lives first impressions also matter. In order to do well, we need to convey to other people that we are competent, trustworthy, superior, someone they want to hire and have around. One of the ways we do it is through the characteristics associated with sexual attraction; things that other people respond to automatically, but for good reason.

That is why signaling is not just directly sexual, but general. It is an important part of why beauty pays, and good-looking lawyers earn more. And it is why appearances, and the responses they evoke, don’t fade into irrelevance once a professional woman hits her late thirties. As we can infer from a peacock’s tail.

Peacocks’ Tails and Costly Signaling

Upriver from London, the Thames boasts a succession of manicured riverside pubs. On sunny days, you can drink in the company of Thames Path walkers, owners of small boats, waterbirds, and, at my favorite, peacocks. The cocks stroll around among the drinkers and the peahens, displaying their extraordinary tails on a regular basis. They also fly up to the pub roof, to make their ugly calls. If you only ever saw the birds on the ground, you wouldn’t think such flying was possible; and in a world of fast-moving predators—wild cats, foxes—these tails seem crazy. Which is why they have fascinated evolutionary biologists from Darwin on.

Darwin deduced that, way back, peahens started to prefer mating with males who had large showy tails. This meant that the larger the tail, the more offspring a peacock was likely to have, and over time tails got bigger and bigger still. But why would dowdy, sensibly camouflaged peahens prefer this to a lean, mean fast-flying bird? “Costly signaling” is the answer.

Costly signaling is behavior that is very costly in terms of resources—time, energy, risk or, in humans, money—and also conveys information that has potentially big returns for the signaler. For example, a huge tail takes energy to grow and maintain, and handicaps and endangers its owner. But a peacock with a fine tail therefore proclaims that he is physically a fine, strong and fit specimen who can easily cope with all these demands. And is a desirable mate.

Among nonhuman species, signaling is all about mating and choosing a good parent for your offspring. Among humans it goes much further. We are also interested in choosing people for a much wider range of activities. However, the basic problem is the same. There is a lot about people that we don’t know and we are trying to evaluate their future potential as well as their current worth, as employees, employers, trustees, political leaders.

This is even harder in today’s large and complex human societies than it was in the small groups of our hunter-gatherer past. One reason why there is such intense competition to enter a select few of the world’s universities is the signal that their degree certificates send: not about “reproductive fitness”—that is, the likelihood you’ll produce top-quality offspring—but about your intelligence, application and general fitness for top jobs.

Certificates, however, only take you so far. A lot of human signaling remains face-to-face, whether it’s for elected office, the CEO’s suite or just the good graces of someone you want on your side at work. There, first impressions take in physical attributes, but also the way you dress and behave, and what these seem to say about your backstory…

The XX Factor by Alison Wolf

Research on beauty confirms, time and again, that in the labor market, men benefit or suffer just as much as women: for example, as we saw earlier, male lawyers with good looks gain just as much as good-looking female ones. This seems puzzling at first, since women place much less weight on appearances than men do when choosing husbands: fecundity matters less to women, resources more. However, as we have just seen, signaling by humans goes well beyond specifically sexual encounters. We see physical characteristics as evidence of underlying quality; we like to be among the successful and able. And we definitely like to think that the people we hire are from the top half of the distribution.

Talking about “beauty” makes people think of facial features, but that is only part of it. Body weight and height also matter. Of course, there are individual exceptions; but tall men do significantly better in the labor market than shorter ones, after controlling for education, class, race and general health. And it is not just the very short who suffer a penalty; men in the whole bottom fifth for height are significantly affected. People associate height in men with strength, energy and resources, which is why short male politicians often wear stacked heels; and the labor market data indicate that our perceptions translate into concrete advantage.

Obesity, meanwhile, is bad for your earnings as well as your health, especially if you’re a woman. In laboratory studies, people claim they won’t discriminate against the obese, and then go ahead and do just that. Labor market data for the US and the UK confirm that obese women really suffer for their weight, even more than men do for their height.

This isn’t just because obesity is more common among the poor, although it is. The finding holds true even after controlling for education, family background and health. Obese white women earn a lot less on average than their otherwise-similar peers. I suspect this goes well beyond aesthetics and signals of fecundity. In modern societies, which value slimness and sport, an obese woman is “read” as someone who has little self-control or ability to stick at something difficult (like exercise or a diet). This is then generalized into their likely value as an employee.

All of this helps explain why, in 2010, “of the 16 female United States senators between ages fifty-six and seventy-four, not one has visible gray hair; nor do 90 percent of the women in the House of Representatives.”

Academic lawyer Deborah Rhode, who pointed this out in her attack on the “beauty bias,” finds it demeaning verging on despicable. But these women are behaving in a rational and sensible way. As rising UK politician Liz Truss explained to me: “In politics, one’s gender is quite an important factor in the way people look at you. If you’re an analyst or an accountant, the output is the set of accounts, the report. Whereas if you’re a politician the output is the person. Your physical appearance is more important, the way your voice sounds, your backstory, all of those are important in a way they’re not in many other careers. And the initial impression is very strong.”

Initial impressions are critical for undecided voters on the eve of an election. They are critical on the campaign trail. In the UK system, they are critical in getting your party’s nomination. Local branches of the major parties decide on their candidate at selection meetings at which shortlisted contenders speak and are quizzed. Your performance at such a meeting and the image you project decide your fate.

None of this is specific to women. Elderly Chinese male politicians all have black hair because it’s dyed, not because the Chinese don’t go gray. But signaling and first impressions have very particular implications for women, because looking young and looking healthy, with gleaming hair and clear skin, are prime female signals.

If you’re a female politician, you don’t try to look like a would be topless model. But you do, for very good reason, try to look slim, healthy, attractive and reasonably young. The US senators who worry about gray hairs are not trying to attract mates; their ages are matters of public record, and they are interested in power and influence, not reproduction. They know, however, that age in women is not associated with power and fitness: it is the wrong signal and not one they want to emit. And I bet none of them is obese, either.

 

Excerpted from The XX Factor: How the Rise of Working Women Has Created a Far Less Equal World by Alison Wolf. Copyright © 2013 by Alison Wolf. Published by Crown Publishers, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company.


Most Americans still “aren’t ready” for a female president, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) told syndicated columnist Cal Thomas in an interview earlier this week. ”I don’t think there is a lot of pent-up desire for a woman president,” she said.

The reaction to Bachmann’s latest comment is no surprise. “I found her remarks shocking and disappointing, especially since she took the initiative to run for president herself,” said Marianne Schnall, author of “What Will It Take to Make a Woman President?” ”Why would she do that if she felt this way?”

Even Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who lost his own bid for the presidency in 2008, told CNN’s Piers Morgan that former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton “would most likely” win if the election were held tomorrow.

“I just have a very different reading of the political scene,” McCain explained. He cited “the growth of women” in Congress, as well as the many female mayors and governors throughout the country. “We’re proud we’ve had women governors here in Arizona, two in a row.”

A Rasmussen Reports telephone poll in January found that “voters remain overwhelmingly willing to vote for a woman for president.” In fact, 77 percent believe a woman will be elected president within the next 10 years. Only 18 percent thought it unlikely.

“I would say that everybody I spoke with — Republicans and Democrats — thought we were indeed ready for a woman president,” Schnall said.  In doing the research for her book, she spoke with more than four dozen politicians, public officials, thought leaders, writers, artists and activists.

“Well, I think we are more ready for it than we think we are,” poet Maya Angelou told Schnall. “I mean, if anyone had asked you five years ago, ‘Do you think we’re ready for a black president?’ it’s very likely that the wagging of the head would have been, ‘No, no no — not yet.’ However, we’re readier than we thought we were. And I think that’s true about women.”

Bachmann addressed the election of the first African American to the office in her interview as well, saying: “I think there was a cachet about having an African American president because of guilt.” She did not elaborate, so Thomas surmised it was guilt over “slavery and the lengthy denial of civil rights to blacks.”

Yet several of those interviewed by Schnall for her book contradicted Bachmann’s analysis, believing instead that the country would elect a woman before an African American for president. “I would have been certain that we would see a woman president before we saw a black president,” New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof told Schnall.

“Well, I do think we’re ready and prepared (for a woman president),” former Republican senator Olympia J. Snowe said in Schnall’s book. “I think in looking back at history, you have to have more women running to even get to a place where the country is focused on a female candidate for president.”

Women have been elected to the House and Senate in record-breaking numbers (although far from parity), and several women have gained attention for their presidential campaigns. Donna Brazile, vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, cited Shirley Chisholm’s campaign in 1972, Pat Schroeder’s in 1988 and Elizabeth Dole’s in 2000.

Chisholm deserves credit for paving the way, said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.). “She charted the course for a woman to be president, and I think because of her and because of the movement, the country is about ready.”

“The country is ready; the electoral ground is fertile,” agreed Brazile. “The country now is eager to see a woman run and compete successfully for the White House.”

Schnall said she believes “there is a huge groundswell of excitement and energy, of women and men, toward reaching this milestone.”

Men aren’t the problem in getting a woman elected, Pat Mitchell, president and chief executive of the Paley Center for Media, told Schnall. “I think men have been ready longer than women have been ready in a funny way,” she said. “There are enough men who have seen or experienced the leadership of women to believe that it is absolutely within our province and that women can do it just as well, if not better, than men.”

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a former House speaker, admitted to Schnall that she believed a woman would be in the Oval Office before the House would ever shatter “the marble ceiling,” as she called it, and elect a female speaker.

“The American people are very, very ready for a woman president,” Pelosi said. “They’re far ahead of the politicians.”

Does she have a point?

Diana Reese
Diana Reese is a journalist in Overland Park, Kan. Follow her on Twitter at @dianareese.

Wealthy women shouldn't marry

Victoria Luckwell the daughter of a UK millionaire


The daughter of one of the UK’s richest men has warned wealthy women against marriage after her “gold-digger” ex-husband was awarded a £1.2 million in a divorce payout.

Victoria-Luckwell

Victoria Luckwell, 37, whose father Mike set up The Moving Picture Company, and is worth an estimated £135 million or $222 million, said the current legal system in Britain acted as a “disincentive” for the rich to wed, because they had no way of protecting their family’s assets.

Her comments came after her ex-husband, Frankie Limata was handed a £1.2 million payout by a judge, despite having signed numerous prenuptial agreements waiving his right to any of his wife’s money. Miss Luckwell has been told by a judge that she must provide him with £900,000 to buy a home plus £300,000 to pay off his debts, buy a car and furnish his home.

As she left court she said: “Sadly I am left to conclude there is a strong financial disincentive for a wealthy woman to marry if she cannot be   assured of protecting her family’s assets. Simply put, this is a gold-digger’s charter.”

Her 71-year-old father added: “A law which rewards a gold digger after signing three legal agreements merits real criticism.”

The couple, who have three children, met in 2005 and prior to their marriage unemployed Mr Limata signed three agreements promising not to make any claims either during or after the marriage on his wife’s property or gifts provided by her family.

But when they split in 2012 he went to court asking for £2.2 million to keep him in the style to which he had become accustomed.

Today after a lengthy hearing earlier this month Family Division judge Mr. Justice Holman ordered her to provide him with £900,000 to buy a home to live in while their three children, aged between two and eight, are growing   up.

In addition she must also provide him with £300,000 to furnish the property and pay off his debts.

Miss Luckwell currently lives in a £6.7 million home in central London, but is now fearful that she may have to sell it in order to meet the payments to her ex.

After the ruling she said her family were “pleased” that the judge had recognised Mr Limata had contributed no capital to the marriage, with all the finances coming from her family.

She said: “We are all distressed that today Frankie was given a financial award at all, given the unforgivable breaches of his promises.

“This has been a painful public hearing during which Frankie made cruel and wholly unjustified criticisms of my family.

“Important public policy considerations arise from this case. Unless Parliament enacts the recent Law Commission’s proposals on nuptial agreements, the law will remain in a state of uncertainty.

“This results in very costly and public hearings a well as enormous emotional distress and financial uncertainty. My recent experience is exactly what nuptial agreements are designed to eliminate.”

Mr Limata claimed he had been forced to “live like a tramp” with all his possessions in bin bags after the couple split up.

He previously turned down an £850,000 offer to settle the case and the judge criticised the legal costs run up by the couple of more than £657,000.

In reaching his findings the judge said : “They do both need a suitable home in which to live. Victoria has one. Frankie does not.”

He said the couple both had a “high” standard of living, allowing them to take   expensive foreign holidays, eat at top restaurants and drive luxury cars.

Miss Luckwell is considering whether to launch an appeal against the judgment but is this case an anomaly or is there a concerted effort to dissuade people away from the idea of marriage?


One in five women in their mid-40s is childless – compared to one in 10 of their mothers’ generation, new data show.

Some 19% of women born in 1967 did not have children by their 45th birthday, compared with 11% of women born in 1940.

The new 2012 data, from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), also reveal that women now have 1.91 children on average, compared to 2.36 among their mothers’ generation.

One in 10 women born in 1967 had four or more children, as did almost one in five women born in 1940.

Women born in 1982 have had slightly fewer children on average (1.02) by their 30th birthday than women born in 1967, who had 1.16 children by the same age.

The data also showed that 383,189 live births in 2012 occurred within marriage or a civil partnership, compared to 346,485 that were outside marriage.

Of this last group, 304,606 births were registered by both the mother and father.

All the figures cover England and Wales.


Women continue to choose to get married, despite feminism and our economic freedom, says Debora L. Spar in this excerpt from “Wonder Women: Sex, Power and the Quest for Perfection.” Better health and wealth appear to be two benefits from this union.

By  Debora L. Spar

I got married on an unseasonably cold day in April. It had rained hard for the past three weeks, and so when the sun emerged that morning we took it as a good omen. I wore an ivory dress and carried roses. My husband wore a suit his father had sewn for him and a face green with nerves. We held the ceremony in a chapel, but had cautiously removed any visible signs of Christ. The Unitarian minister was glorious; my mother-in-law sobbed; and the food was fine. At least I think it was fine. I don’t actually recall eating any of it.

Today, the bridal industry in the United States accounts each year for approximately $72 billion in sales. The entire bottled water industry, by comparison, generates about $11 billion a year; bookstores account for only $16 billion. Fourteen percent of the bridal industry’s total comes from the sale of engagement rings; roughly another 5 percent from wedding dresses. Each of these components is regarded by Wall Street analysts as essentially “recession- proof,” with couples regularly spending an average of $20,000 on their special day.

To critics, our enduring obsession with the white wedding proves the triumph of both capitalism and conservatism. Harking back to marriage’s contractual past, for example, Jaclyn Geller argues that weddings are inherently destructive, symbols of nothing more than the ancient rites by which women were traditionally “given”– often sold– to men. Wedlock,” she states, “is tainted by the historical residue of female subordination; an overwhelming, oppressive social history that many modern brides and grooms are simply not aware of.”

Intellectually, I totally buy their arguments. Weddings are anachronistic. They are expensive and overwrought and mundane in their conformity. At the turn of the 21st century, there is no rational reason why women should get married at all anymore, much less why they should do so with all the lace and frippery embraced by Queen Victoria. She was Queen Victoria, after all, who ruled over a now much-despised colonial empire and didn’t talk much about sex. Just because she chose to marry her prince in a pure white gown and lacy veil, why should I? And all my friends? And pretty much everyone I’ve ever known?

Inexplicable Choices

Why, for heaven’s sake, should twice-divorced women go through the same ceremony all over again, cooing those “till death do us part” vows that didn’t work the first time around? And why, after decades of fighting valiantly against the heterosexual status quo, would gay and lesbian couples choose to embrace the same cakes, the same rings, the same dress-and-tuxedo affairs? Surely, Geller has to be right: “Marriage mania in modern American women did not arise sui generis. It is the result of millennia of law and social custom that have valued women solely in terms of their relationship to men, predicating female respectability on male stewardship.”

Yet one has to wonder whether legions of women–smart, confident, well educated, ostensibly independent women– are really being hoodwinked to such a massive degree. Because we know, after all, the rough history of marriage. We know our mothers did it, and our grandmothers, and all those long-forgotten ancestors who were likely roped into marrying boys they didn’t like at all. We know that feminism freed us from economic dependence and that the sexual revolution gave us the ability to control both pleasure and reproduction. But there we go again, marching down aisles and blushing beneath virginal veils. Something deeper has to be going on here, something more primal than simply striving to tie a public knot.

One possibility is health. In study after study, research shows that married individuals live longer, healthier lives than their single counterparts. Single women, for example, suffer from mortality rates that are about 50 percent higher than those of married women; for single men, the differential is a shocking 250 percent. Single men and women both report higher rates of depression and anxiety than do married men and women, and young adults experience notable drops in depression and drinking problems after they tie the knot. “Having a partner who is committed for better or for worse, in sickness and in health,” one marriage study concludes, “makes people happier and healthier.”

Economic Benefits

A second possibility is economics. Harking back to more ancient drivers of marriage, research also shows that married couples are generally wealthier than their single counterparts. In 2009, for example, the median household income of married couples in the United States was $71,830, compared to $48,084 for “male house holders” and $32,597 for “female house holders.” In 2004, median assets for married couples were roughly five times those of unmarried men and women. Increasingly, it does not make a difference–economically, at least–whether the husband or wife is the primary wage earner, or whether either or both of them work. Statistically, men and women are just better off in the state of marriage.

Sensible though they may sound, however, both the health and wealth explanations of marriage present two kinds of problems. The first relate to causality, the second to credibility. Put simply, the causality problem means that it’s hard to determine whether marriage causes people to be healthier and wealthier, or if healthier and wealthier people are more likely to be married. In the United States, this problem is confounded by the bleak fact that our poorest and least educated citizens are also the least likely to be married. Clearly, these populations suffer from a lack of two-income families (and from the poor single mother-led families that predominate as a result). But this complex situation doesn’t reveal whether marriage actually causes people to become either wealthier or healthier.

Meanwhile, the idea that people would actively pursue marriage in the hope of becoming wealthier or healthier strains our credulity, at least a bit. Yes, we must contend with the intensely annoying reality of “Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?” And with tabloid tales of 26-year-old bombshells who breezily wed geriatric oil barons. But even if women (or men) really were regularly marrying for money, it wouldn’t explain why they spend so much money doing it.

Interestingly, research on the topic of marital choice is decidedly slim. There are volumes on how to get married; even more volumes on how to stay married; and dozens of academic works that probe the history and economics of this strange custom. But there is blessedly little understanding of just why we still do it. Indeed, as one scholar of marriage states, “I think the interesting question is not why so few people are marrying, but rather, why so many people are marrying, or planning to marry, or hoping to marry, when cohabitation and single parenthood are widely acceptable options.”

Excerpted from “” by Debora L. Spar, published in September 2013 by Sarah Crichton Books, an imprint of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. Copyright © 2013 by Debora L. Spar. All rights reserved.

Debora L. Spar is the president of Barnard College, the women’s undergraduate college affiliated with Columbia University in New York City. She received her doctorate in government from Harvard University and was the Spangler Family Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. Spar is the author of numerous books, including “Ruling the Waves: Cycles of Discovery,” “Chaos, and Wealth from the Compass to the Internet” and “The Baby Business: How Money, Science and Politics Drive the Commerce of Conception.” Follow her on Twitter @deboraspar.


Students at Duke University have spent the last few weeks on twitter about a female freshman student who flies out to Los Angeles on occasion during school and leads a double life as a porn starlet. The porn-star-student was outed by fellow freshman Thomas Bagley, reports The Chronicle, Duke’s student rag. Bagley told The Daily Caller that the starlet divulged her secret to him. Bagley said she swore him to secrecy. He obviously then went ahead and told a bunch of people at a fraternity event almost immediately but he still didn’t get into the fraternity.

The sex-worker student doesn’t want her real name revealed — or even her slutty porn name revealed — despite the fact that she has now done at least two interviews, written a monologue about herself and been invited to speak in various Duke classes on the topic of sex work.

She explains to XOJane:That a woman could be intelligent, educated and choose to be a sex worker is almost unfathomable.

The student claims she entered the adult film industry as a way to help pay the exorbitant cost of attendance at Duke, where the grand total for tuition, fees and room and board is about $58,000 per year. However, it’s not clear how much her extra-curricular activities help relieve her financial burdens.

The student describes herself as a “nerdy,” “very sexual” libertarian-leaning Republican. She wants to be a lawyer someday. For now, she is a “proud women’s studies and sociology double-major” who despises Duke’s Greek scene. She told The Chronicle that she feels “at home” when she is in the porn world. She feels less at home when she is on the Duke campus.

“I feel like girls at Duke have to hide their sexuality,” she explained. “We’re caught in this virgin-whore dichotomy.”

However, with increasing scrutiny of her private life, gossiping and external pressure it remains to be seen how this story will develop. The student claims it is “probably the most empowered I have ever felt”, but with her parents unaware of her moonlighting career and potentially getting pressured to leave the University and her dreams of becoming a lawyer it remains to be seen whether she’ll still feel the same way in the near future.