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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.


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.


BuzzFeed caused a stir when it published photos of the man it deemed the hottest gynecologist ever (featured image). While some commenters swooned, others were unsettled—“it” being the hot doc’s hotness, and, frankly, his gender. The fact that a doctor specializing in women’s health care was essentially turned into an international sex object raised an increasingly debated question: Are male gynecologists weird? More specifically, in this day and age, are they downright creepy?

Asked just that question, 28-year-old Pamela answered with a resounding “yes.” She said she’s never been treated by one and never would. The mere thought makes her uncomfortable, she added. That sentiment was echoed by Tiffany, who is in her 30s and said in an email, “My OB-GYN is a woman—all of mine have been, and that’s by design. I do think male OB-GYNs are a bit creepy.”

Malia, 32, was a bit more mixed. “I worked as a receptionist for three male OB-GYNs,” she laughed. “There was no creepy factor with them.” Even so, she would not want a male gynecologist treating her: “I just feel more comfortable with a female.” It was a common refrain in conversations and emails exchanged with women of various ages, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

That discomfort is helping to alter the landscape of women’s health.

“Younger women do not want to go to a man in his 50s and 60s,” said Rebecca C. Brightman, clinical instructor of obstetrics and gynecology at New York’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine. When women get into their 40s and 50s, she said, many begin to rethink what they want in a women’s health provider. Those who may have felt comfortable seeing a male doctor during their childbearing years may not feel comfortable talking to a man about their struggles with menopause. Women may wish to find a doctor who relates to them better, and today there are more female doctors to choose from than ever.

“I don’t need judgment when you’re looking up my skirt. That’s not worth shaving my legs for.”

Male doctors were once the norm. But over the last two decades, women have flooded the medical profession; in 2003, female applicants outnumbered male applicants at U.S. medical schools for the first time. The trend is even more pronounced among women’s health specialties. “There has been a significant gender shift in OB-GYN over the past two decades. In 1990, 22.4 percent of all OB-GYNs were women. In 2010, nearly 49 percent were women,” Jeanne Conry, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said in an email. She pointed to figures showing bigger changes to come: “In 1990, 49 percent of all first-year OB-GYN residents were women. In 2012, 83 percent were women.”

But that still leaves plenty of men pursuing gynecology as a profession. When few doctors were female, the idea of a male OB-GYN may not have seemed odd. Today, a man specializing in an area of medicine that involves staring at vaginas for a good part of the workday does strike some as a bit strange. But is it?

Not at all, said Peter Schnatz, associate chairman and residency program director of OB-GYN at Pennsylvania’s Reading Hospital and one of the leading researchers on the subject of gender in the specialty. Male gynecologists don’t see their work through the lens that some critics might, Schnatz said: “We see it as providing care to a person, not the awkwardness of the exam,” which is the part that some women simply can’t get past.

Brightman also attempted to debunk the notion that men who practice gynecology are suspect. “I don’t feel it’s creepy,” she said. “OB-GYN is a very attractive field because it’s a great combination of internal medicine, a little psychiatry, and also surgery. I can totally understand why a man might be drawn to the field. But the problem is you have to look at patients, and a lot of patients want women, and more and more will continue to want women.”

She added: “I understand why women may feel it’s creepy, and I’ve heard stories from patients that they were made to feel uncomfortable. I’m sure it wasn’t the doctor’s intention, and unfortunately there are stories out there of men doing strange things with patients. It’s unfortunate because it casts a real shadow on the profession.”

To her point: In 2002, a Chicago gynecologist was convicted of raping a patient during a pelvic exam, while in 2005 another in Seattle was found guilty of sexually abusing patients.

And there are women who feel more comfortable seeing male gynecologists. Susan, 50, said in an email that her experiences with female gynecologists were overwhelmingly negative. She found them particularly judgmental and cold, she said. That sentiment was shared by Lisa, a 34-year-old who wrote that her female gyno “was great until she told me that I’d made bad sexual choices. Not sure if it was because my single sex life doesn’t fit in her married suburbia you-must-have-been-a-cheerleader, ‘What do you mean, you don’t want kids?’ mentality. But I don’t need judgment when you’re looking up my skirt. That’s not worth shaving my legs for.” She added that her OB-GYN “actually said, ‘It’s OK, you just made some poor choices.’ I nearly shoved that speculum down her throat.”

Asked if female OB-GYNs have a harsher bedside manner than their male counterparts, Brightman replied: “Because of the rules that govern sexism, some men can be perceived as kinder and gentler. A woman who is direct in her manner can be perceived as cool and detached and lacking empathy.”

It is worth noting that having ample choice in choosing a women’s health provider is still a luxury. With few female doctors in the country, male gynecologists became crucial to women’s health care in Iraq. But over the last decade, these male doctors found themselves facing threats from Islamic extremists who disapprove of the idea of any man seeing a woman who is not his wife unclothed. According to reports, some male OB-GYNs in the country have been killed. And just days ago it was announced that Saudi Arabia’s top Islamic scholar had issued an edict prohibiting male doctors from seeing the bodies of deceased women, thereby preventing the involvement of male doctors in examinations of female corpses for medical or criminal cases.

Ultimately it appears that female patients here in the United States want what all patients want: the best health provider possible. “Interestingly, what we found is the vast majority of women, if you ask them, just want a good doctor,” Schnatz said of his studies on the topic. “They don’t really care if it’s male or female.” He cited a 2005 study he worked on that found that a little more than 70 percent of women said they had no preference when asked if they preferred a male or female gynecologist. Of the nearly 30 percent who did, the majority preferred a female gynecologist. A 2007 study he also worked, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, found that when female patients were shown photos of male or female gynecologists and asked which they preferred to see, more women selected the female, even though gender was not mentioned in the questions. However, when descriptions of the qualifications of the two gynecologists pictured were added to the experiment, women overwhelmingly chose the more qualified candidate, regardless of gender.

A study published in October found that female doctors outperformed their male counterparts on patient care assessments. So maybe the real question isn’t “are male gynecologists creepy?” but “are they as good as female ones?”


A New Jersey waitress who received thousands of dollars in gratuities after claiming she received an anti-gay note in lieu of a tip is reportedly issuing refunds to those who gave donations.

Dayna Morales, a 22-year-old former Marine, claimed last month that a family of four who racked up a $93.55 bill at the Gallop Asian Bistro in Branchburg, N.J., left her no tip, only a note saying they couldn’t leave any extra cash for her service because they “do not agree with your lifestyle.”

Morales quickly emailed the story to a gay advocacy website and later posted a photograph of the purported check on her Facebook page. The alleged incident made national headlines and resulted in thousands of dollars being donated to Morales, who said she would send all proceeds to the Wounded Warrior Project.

NBCNewYork.com reported Friday that three people who sent money to a PayPal account set up in her name say their donations were refunded. One of her supporters, Brittney Stilgenbauer of Tuscon, Ariz., said she felt bad about the situation.

“I felt awful for her, and I thought it would be great if people could come together and donate a dollar each and make up for her tip that she lost,” said Stilgenbauer, who encouraged Morales to set up a PayPal account to accept donations.

At least one man who sent cash to Morales at the restaurant told NBCNewYork.com he has not gotten the money back. Morales did not respond to requests for comment from the station.

Meanwhile, a representative of the Florida-based Wounded Warrior Project could not confirm Morales had made any donations as of Wednesday, Bridgewater Patch reported.

A representative for the nonprofit group that caters to veterans returning from overseas checked for donations by Morales’ name and within the ZIP codes for Bridgewater, N.J., where she worked, and Bedminster, where Morales said she lives, and was unable to locate any correlating donations. The donations may have been made from a different ZIP code or by a third-party, the representative told the website.

Morales, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve from July 2009 through May 2013 in Newburgh, N.Y., as an administrative specialist, could not be reached for comment. Restaurant manager Byron Lapola told NJ.com earlier this week that she remains off the schedule, at least temporarily.

“We’re still waiting for the owners to finish their investigation,” Lapola told the website. “It’s pretty complex, so until then we’re restraining comment.”

The couple accused of leaving the note for Morales has since denied doing so, telling NBC 4 New York they did in fact leave an $18 tip on the $93 bill. The unidentified couple also provided the station a credit card statement that indicated the tip, according to the report.

NBC News has also reported that a Pentagon source said Morales was dismissed from the Marine Reserve Corps in May because she was not attending drills and that she was discharged under “less than honorable” conditions.

Several of Morales’ acquaintances also since questioned her credibility. Kristina Calamusa, who described herself as a former friend of Morales, told The Daily Caller late last month that the waitress claimed to her that she was “blown up by a land mine overseas.”

But, according to Calamusa, that story was false; Morales was never on active duty. The Journal News of White Plains, N.Y., has also quoted acquaintances of Morales who say she lied about her military service.

Julie Howat and Karolee Larkin, both 23, related to the newspaper a story Morales supposedly told them about her serving in Afghanistan and surviving an explosion that killed everyone in her platoon, leaving her as the unit’s sole survivor. But Maj. Shawn Haney, a spokesman for the Marines, said in an email to The Journal News that while Morales did serve in the Marines Corps reserve from July 2009 to May 2013, there’s no indication in her record of combat service in Afghanistan or Iraq.

“While (Morales) did not fulfill her reserve obligation, per the Privacy Act, administrative actions are not releasable,” Haney said. “The same applies to character of service and type of discharge.”

dayna+morales+refund

The New Jersey waitress whose story was questioned after she claimed she received an anti-gay note instead of a tip is now out of a job.

The Gallop Asian Bistro said Saturday that Dayna Morales will no longer be working there. On its Facebook page, the restaurant said it was a “joint decision” with Morales that she move on.

“This has been an unfortunate incident for Gallop Asian Bistro, our employees, and our customers,” the post said.

Last month, Morales posted a photo on Facebook showing the bill with a line through the tip area. The photo of the receipt showed someone had written, “I’m sorry but I cannot tip because I do not agree with your lifestyle.”

But days later, a New Jersey couple came forward to NBC 4 New York, claiming the receipt was theirs and that they had left a tip and did not write a note, suggesting it was used for a hoax. The handwriting, they said, was not theirs, and they also supplied what they said was a credit card statement showing they were charged for the total plus the $18 tip.

After Morales’ initial Facebook post, her story got national attention and she began receiving money from all over the world. She said at the time that she planned to donate some of it to the Wounded Warriors Project.

This week, three people who sent money to a PayPal account set up in her name say their electronic donations were refunded.

Morales did not respond to requests for comment Friday about the donations being returned but in her last interview with NBC 4 New York, maintained she had been telling the truth.

“All I know is what I’ve been saying,” she said.


With gender inequality high in many developing countries it’s important to address how can we reduce the gap between the number of girls and boys being educated in poor countries.

Economists see reducing sexual inequality in education as a vital part of promoting development. The failure to educate girls limits economic growth in the developing world by wasting human capital. As a result, the UN set itself the target of eliminating gender disparity in education at all levels by 2015, as one of its Millennium Development Goals.

Although places like China, Bangladesh and Indonesia look likely to achieve the target, Africa, in particular, will not. For every 100 boys in secondary school on the continent in 2010, there were only 82 girls. The most common response is to channel more money to girls’ education. UN schemes finance school places for girls in 15 sub-Saharan countries. NGOs have got involved too. Camfed, a charity, now pays for almost 100,000 girls to be educated in Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Looking at recently-published UN statistics on gender inequality in education, one observes that the overall picture has improved dramatically over the last decade, but progress has not been even (see chart). Although the developing world on average looks likely to hit the UN’s gender-inequality target, many parts of Africa are lagging behind. While progress is being made in sub-Saharan Africa in primary education, gender inequality is in fact widening among older children. The ratio of girls enrolled in primary school rose from 85 to 93 per 100 boys between 1999 and 2010, whereas it fell from 83 to 82 and from 67 to 63 at the secondary and tertiary levels.

chart

In some places there has been little or no progress whatsoever. For instance, the enrolment ratio in Chad and the Central African Republic appears to be flat-lining at under 70 girls per 100 boys. These two countries look soon to be overtaken by Afghanistan, up to now the worst performing country in the world on this metric. There is also great variation within countries. The situation appears to be much worse in rural areas in Africa, where getting to school takes longer and may be more dangerous. For instance, in rural areas of Niger, UN estimates puts the number of girls per 100 boys at school as low as 41.

This is in contrast to dramatic improvements in gender equality in schooling seen in the rest of the world. South Asia, which lagged behind sub-Saharan Africa in 1999 at the primary school level, hit the UN’s 2015 target in 2010. Even the Middle East, where traditional religious prejudices often prevent girls going to school, has made substantial progress. Only Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen now have less than 90 girls per 100 boys at school, in contrast to over 14 sub-Saharan African countries.

Yet it is important to note that gender inequality is not the only problem in Africa. In many places there are not enough school places to go around for the boys alone. In Niger just 15% of both boys and girls were enrolled in secondary school last year. In the very poorest of African countries, simply funding more school places for boys or girls may end up boosting equality as girls may stop having to compete with boys for the few available spaces.

But other problems prevent girls going to school too. Some are kept away by the religious qualms of their families. Others are needed as child labour to prop up household incomes when times are tough, due to the lack of developed insurance or saving systems in these countries. Either way, gender inequality in Africa is a complex problem—and one which will need several different policy responses if the UN’s goals are ever to be reached.


All right, so I’m gonna let you in on a little secret. But you gotta promise you won’t tell my fellow iFixiters. I’m not a fixer.

I don’t fix my computer when its hard drive overheats. I don’t puff up with confidence when I get a flat tire. I don’t look at a broken curtain rod and say, “I got this.”

Nope—I’m not the girl you’re looking for. At least, I wasn’t.

I grew up surrounded by very self-sufficient people: six Eagle Scouts (with two on the way), four technicians, one architect, and an enthusiastic father who learned everything he knows about repair from “Grandpa Smithy.”

But there’s a trend in my family—and most of my girlfriends’ families—that’s hard to ignore. All the fixers are men. They tinker and build and play, then grab a beer and watch a game afterwards. I didn’t.

I wasn’t offended, though. I didn’t shout or pout or beg for my own set of screwdrivers. I was perfectly fine letting the boys be boys. I’m probably making my fellow feminists cringe, but that’s just how it was. I didn’t fix because I wasn’t really taught to fix. And somewhere down the line, I stopped caring to learn.

That doesn’t mean I’m helpless—not by a long shot. I was encouraged to be independent, smart, capable, and career-oriented. I mean, I’ve never been short on female role models. Aunty Jan, a CPA with her own firm, or cousin Christina, a philanthropic athlete, or my mom Lynn, a talented artist… just to name a few. I was the next act in a long series of powerful women, and the sky was my limit.

Safe to say, my family always told me to be my own person and stand for what I believe in—just so happens that my beliefs didn’t cover leaky faucets. And I was able to maintain my non-fixing lifestyle for more than 20 years, nearly seven of those years living alone. Thanks to my paid plumber and the nice guy with the toolbox down the street, I got along just fine.

Then I met the folks at iFixit. For them, repair was a more than an action. It was a state of mind. And what they said made a whole lotta sense: Fixing things is good for the environment, it helps child-miners in developing countries, it saves you money. Cool, great, got it, I thought to myself. But I wasn’t drinking the Kool-Aid just yet.

Until one day when I was working in the office, drinking my daily tea. Unsurprisingly, my klutzy hand knocked over the nearly-full mug and I spilled Purely Peppermint Yogi all over my laptop’s trackpad. Giddy with fear, my stomach dropped as every other muscle in my body seized up: “Oh shit,” I thought. “How much is this repair gonna cost?”

But before I could pull out the credit card, a group of my co-workers jumped at the opportunity to open something up. I shrugged, and without hesitation handed over the device. I didn’t even notice my assumption; once again, a good-natured boy was going to help me fix something. Wrong.

One of the guys, Mike, grabbed the laptop and put it on a table next to a ProTech Toolkit. He looked over at me and asked, “Ya ready?” Ready for what? Ready to watch you? Yeah, sure. Very wrong. Mike pulled up a guide online on how to open a MacBook and told me to grab a PH000 screw out of the kit. I spent the next 10 minutes opening, cleaning, and reassembling my computer. It was quick, it was intimidating, it was freaking fantastic.

I’ve owned that computer for five years. It’s been attached to my hip through countless hours of essay writing, photoshopping, Internet exploring, and the like. It’s certainly the object I use the most—for hours and hours a day. I love my computer. I’m not even ashamed to admit that I curiously nicknamed it “Spike” (thanks, James Marsters). So you’d think I’d know everything there is to know about my computer. But up until that ill-fated day my tea spilled, I had never seen the most important part of it—its guts.

I wanted to do a little jig, I wanted say sayonara to Genius Bars and Geek Squads, I wanted to open up everything I owned, just ‘cause I could. That night I went home and pulled out the dust-covered tool box my dad proudly gave me when I moved out years ago. And I started to fix. I fixed the bedroom window. I fixed the bathroom towel rack. I fixed the loose light fixture in the hall. I fixed all the broken things that had casually mocked me every time I came home—all in one night. I was charged, I was excited, I was revolutionized.

I was (gosh, dare I say it?) a fixer.

I don’t have a great excuse for relying on others (on boys) to fix my stuff for so many years. In fact, I didn’t even think of it as reliance—I just thought of fixing as something somebody else was better at. I’m a girl, I thought. I’ll step aside and let the boys do their thing.

But I suppose fixing is like most activities. You just need one good opportunity, you just need one toolbox from dad, you just need Mike standing there waiting for you to make the first move (not expecting you to stand aside ‘cause you’re a girl)… and then, well, you just fix it. And that’s when you learn that fixing isn’t a boy’s sport. It’s for everyone.

By Cait Emma


It’s not that meanies are more physically attractive than everyone else. They’re just very good at fooling others.

Mean people are attractive because of their meanness, not in spite of it. Meanness is more officially known as the “Dark Triad” of personality traits—narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy. A recent study shows that people who exhibit these traits are better than people who score lower on the Dark Triad at making themselves appear more attractive.

The meanies aren’t necessarily more physically attractive than anyone else, they are just better at using what the study calls “adornments” (clothes, makeup and the like) to make themselves seem more appealing. The researchers, Nicholas Holtzman and Michael Strube at Washington University in St. Louis, had their subjects remove all makeup, pull long hair back into a ponytail and don a white T-shirt and grey sweatpants. They were rated on their attractiveness in this unadorned state, set loose to adorn themselves to their hearts’ content, and rated again. All three Dark Triad traits were associated with higher attractiveness in the adorned state, when controlling for attractiveness in the unadorned state. So you can take some small comfort in knowing that mean people are just as ugly as the rest of us, they’re just better at fooling everyone into thinking they’re hot.

The study suggests a possible reason why these subjects were compelled to make themselves more attractive: “When people high in Dark Triad traits dress-up, they may experience greater increments in self-esteem or derive more satisfaction from the additional attention they receive, compelling them to continue dressing well.”

And it has been well-documented that the physically attractive are seen as more likeable, further explaining the popularity of the bad boys in their motorcycle jackets who make the ladies swoon, and the cruel, selfish high school girls with expensive hair and logo-emblazoned t-shirts. As “Mean Girls”—yet another incisive cultural study—put it: “The weird thing about hanging out with Regina was that I could hate her, and at the same time, I still wanted her to like me.”

The inexplicable pull of Regina George, the cruel, popular ringleader, goes beyond just her physical beauty, artificial or not. Her Dark Triad personality traits may actually be helping her. Psychopaths have long been characterized as outwardly charming, and research suggests that narcissists tend to make better first impressions. Studies show that after brief exposure to a new person, people rated those who ranked high for narcissism as more likeable.

But whether your personal Regina George gets hit by a bus or not, beauty will fade with time, and even the strongest first impression can’t hide a truly dark interior forever. So chin up, because someday you’ll be living in a big old city, and all they’re ever gonna be is mean.

[Scientific American]


Earlier this month, Business Insider published an “Unofficial Goldman Sachs Guide to Being a Man” that has since been ricocheting around the inboxes of Blankfein-worshipping bros at record speed. But what about us women? Don’t we count for anything? The BI guide troubled me on several accounts, including its thin veil of sarcasm and its blatantly misogynistic recommendations such as “always carry cash in your front pocket,” and “hookers aren’t cool, but remember, the free ones are a lot more expensive.” (Really, Business Insider?) After considering an appropriate response, I sent the following email asking the BI editors to consider publishing a counter list for female young professionals:

To Whom It May Concern,

I was dismayed to read Tuesday’s article, “The Unofficial Goldman Sachs Guide to Being a Man.” Is this really the type of content your male or female readership feels comfortable with and supports?

I hope you will consider publishing my response, which includes what I hope will be a productive counter list for young professional women. As my brilliant, motivated and savvy female young professional peers ascend the ranks of American business, I at least recommend that you consider producing content (yes, even satirical content) that is more responsive to changing cultural mores — particularly regarding gender. If you do not, you will certainly face some serious growing pains and critique in the future.

All the best,

Sophie Sakellariadis

While BI declined to publish my response, I still believe that aspiring female young professionals like myself have a lot of wisdom to share with each other. Moreover, I think our increasing willingness to aid and support one another will ultimately help us to break down gender barriers in the work place. My hope is that the following list will encourage positive, introspective, kind and yes, ambitious decision-making to support personal satisfaction and professional success.

Many of the items on this list are pearls of wisdom I have received from mentors and fellow female young professionals. My hope is that this list will inspire further conversation, thought and contribution towards an even more evolved list of tips or guiding principles for young women. So, without further ado:

  1. Always seek out the tenuous balance between humility and confidence
  2. Practice having difficult conversations about the small things at work, so that you feel more comfortable having difficult conversations about more important topics
  3. Ask your relatives for advice — it makes them feel happy and engaged in your life, and it’s often pretty helpful
  4. Find a new activity that you like and stick with it until you get good at it — no need to shoot for Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour mark
  5. Read voraciously and omnivorously — you never know when something you read will help you contribute in a meeting
  6. Start a book club — it can enrich your mind, deepen your friendships and open you to new ideas. And it’s fun!
  7. Be mindful about how and when you assert yourself — the reality is that women don’t always have the luxury of asserting themselves and receiving the same positive responses that men always do. Don’t hold back, but be thoughtful about how and when you do so
  8. Ask for feedback at work — even when you’re most afraid of getting it
  9. Schedule one-on-one networking meetings with men you admire — even if it might make you feel a little uncomfortable
  10. Schedule one-on-one networking meetings with women you admire — even if it might feel a little intimidating
  11. Engage the men in your life in meaningful conversations about gender — you’ll be surprised to find how open many of them are to this topic
  12. Make the first move — not only in romance, but in friendships as well
  13. Perform random acts of kindness for strangers or new friends
  14. Pig out with your girlfriends late at night — rarely can something make you feel closer to them than drenching yourself in delicious burrito grease
  15. Challenge your self-discipline in small ways by giving up alcohol or limiting your Internet exposure for a month
  16. When your job is getting you down, seek fulfillment and self-approbation through outside activities, such as writing or volunteering
  17. Find a younger woman or a peer to mentor
  18. Seek out and follow up with older women and men that you respect for their career achievements and for their personal achievements
  19. Learn something from someone who is totally different than yourself
  20. GET YOUR BONUS: Ask for what you want in work and in life, even when it’s hard — because if you don’t, you almost certainly won’t get it

Follow Sophie Sakellariadis on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ssakell


A report found that white working-class British boys are falling further behind other groups of children at GCSE, despite a string of initiatives designed to boost the performance of disadvantaged pupils.

The Centre for Social Justice, which was set up by Work and Pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith after he quit as Tory leader, found that over the period 2007-2012 the gap in performance between poor white boys and the average for all pupils widened.

White British boys receiving free school meals – a measure of classroom disadvantage – were performing much worse than other deprived groups of pupils.

Only 26 per cent of white British boys on free school meals gained five A*-C GCSE grades, including English and Maths, last year, compared with 40 per cent of black boys and 63 per cent of all other pupils on free school meals.

Christian Guy, the centre’s director, said: “These figures are sobering. They suggest that despite much money and effort white working-class boys are in danger of becoming an educational underclass.

“They are falling further behind other disadvantaged groups and they lag far behind the majority of pupils. We need to take a close look at the reasons behind this growing inequality and reassess the measures we are taking to close the performance gap.”

The report found serious problems among some children starting school, with some four year olds starting primary school in nappies.

The study also heard of cases where pupils were going to their first day already strides behind their counterparts.

The report, called Requires Improvement, has been drawn up by a working group of educational experts chaired by Sir Robin Bosher of the Harris Federation of Academies and a former primary school head teacher.

Sir Robin said he has come across some children at four-years-old who are developmentally nearer to two when they start school and therefore require a lot of help if they are to catch up.

He added: “I see about 10 per cent in each class who are so unsociable that they hurt others, adults and other young children. But they’re unsociable because they’ve no practice at being sociable.”

Presently children are not formally assessed until the end of the academic year they turn five, but at this stage many were found to be well behind their peers.

The report said that six per cent of boys did not know that print is read from left to right and top to bottom by the end of their first year.

Sir Robin added: “Educational failure is too common in our current system. It affects disadvantaged children and makes reform urgent. This is about social justice. We need to do more to make sure all children are given a good education.”

The report comes after the Government said that teenagers who fail to score good grades in their English and maths GCSEs must continue studying the subjects.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “This government is taking decisive action to support disadvantaged pupils and close the unacceptable attainment gap between them and their peers.

“We are increasing the Pupil Premium to £2.5 billion a year and doubling the number of disadvantaged two year olds eligible for free nursery places to 260,000.

“We’ve turned round more failing schools than ever before and are setting up new free schools to give all parents, not just the rich, the choice of a good school.

“From this week all pupils will study English and Maths to 18 if they don’t achieve a C at GCSE — meaning thousands more young people will have the chance to leave school, college or training with a good grasp of these vital subjects.”

Christopher Hope Christopher Hope at the Telegraph UK


Chelsea Manning, the military whistleblower sentenced last week to 35 years  in prison for leaking classified military documents to WikiLeaks, came out as transgender the day after sentencing, announcing  that she is female and hopes to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. For  many in the trans* community, Manning’s announcement was not a  revelation but a confirmation of her identity. Though Manning’s story is an  exceptional one, as a soldier and a prisoner she stands at the intersection of  several discriminatory policies that affect thousands of trans* people  throughout the United States. In a statement released on August 22nd, the  American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) argued that denying Manning access to  hormone therapy – considered medically necessary care for the treatment of  gender dysphoria – could be a violation of her Eighth Amendment rights protecting her from cruel and unusual punishment. As trans* identity remains  unprotected in the military, however, thousands of trans* service members are,  in fact, denied the right to seek medical care and live as their true  selves.

“Trans* people are typically released from the military through medical  discharge,” says Masen Davis, executive director of the Transgender Law Center.  “That means the trans* service members who are serving are doing so quietly.” A  study recently conducted by the LGBTQ Policy Journal at Harvard’s Kennedy School  for Government found that 20 percent of the trans* people surveyed had served in  the military – twice the rate of the rest of the population. The same study  found that trans* service members were even more likely than their civilian  counterparts to experience employment and housing discrimination and be denied  medical treatment. While the successful repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT)  means sexual orientation is now protected, gender identity is not. And although  gender dysphoria is considered a medical disqualification, discharges may be classified as “administrative,”  potentially limiting troops’ future access to VA healthcare.

One trans* service member, a second-year medical student with a full  scholarship from the U.S. Navy, feels that the DADT victory was incomplete. “I’m  literally the same exact person I was before, the same feelings, experiences,  abilities,” says Jai, who identifies as non-gendered and prefers gender-neutral  pronouns, and plans to begin taking testosterone in September. “The only thing  that has changed is the words that describe me, but now I’m deemed unfit for  service.”

Jai knows that beginning testosterone treatments will likely result in a  medical discharge and the loss of their scholarship, meaning they will need to  find another way to pay for medical school and may even need to repay the  military. It’s a risk Jai is willing to take. “My mental state is important to  me,” Jai says. “Living as a female is a source of daily anxiety and discomfort,  and it has contributed to my depression in the past.” Jai’s options are limited;  the idea of postponing testosterone treatments is devastating. Adds Jai, “I’m  transitioning because I want to be able to be able to see my reflection and say  that I look like me.”

As a medical student, Jai feels especially astounded by the discrimination  trans* people face when it comes to accessing necessary health care. “It’s  comparable to a person with type II diabetes or hypothyroidism not having their  medication covered,” Jai says. Jai, whose father was a career military  serviceman, saw the Navy as an opportunity to go to medical school and serve a  population that needed care. Now, they’re hoping to avoid being discharged until  figuring out another way to pay for school.

Jai hopes that Chelsea Manning’s coming out will raise awareness of the  number of trans* people serving in the military, and is eager to see whether the  military will provide Manning’s medical care. Manning’s attorney, David Coombs,  says he hopes that Fort Leavenworth will “do the right thing,” despite an  earlier statement from the prison’s spokesperson that “the Army does not provide  hormone therapy or sex-reassignment surgery.” Manning, already a deeply symbolic  figure in the battle over government transparency, now stands at the center of  another national conversation. Manning has requested respect, support and  medical care. How the military, the media and the American public honor that  request will affect not only her, but the struggle for trans* rights across the  country.

By  via RollingStone