This Week In Women: Sexual Harassment, 'Vanity Fair,' And True Tragedy
Every week, we ask the same question: will ladies ever catch a break in our society? So far, the answer is a pretty resounding NO, and we have plenty of evidence to back it up—from weird pregnancy stats, to casual workplace sexual harassment, to weirdly sexist profiles of famous women, to some of the most horrifying news of the year.
Everything We Know About Teen Pregnancy Is Wrong
Two new studies suggest everything we thought we knew about teen pregnancy (and how to prevent it) may be wrong, or at least flawed. It turns out exposing teenage girls to the effects of pregnancy—most often through friends or family members who get pregnant at a young age—may actually reduce teen pregnancy rates as well as their overall sexual activity, according to a recent study by Kandice A. Kapinos and Olga Yakusheva published in the Journal of Adolescent Health. It states that teen girls “appear to learn vicariously from teen childbearing experiences of their friends, resulting in delayed childbearing and higher educational attainment.” No word on whether they also learn vicariously through Teen Mom reruns, but we think they probably have a similar effect.
Meanwhile, a study from the University of Notre Dame suggests that giving teens condoms actually increases teen pregnancy rates. According to the study, giving teenagers access to free condoms in schools increases fertility rates by about ten percent, often because the students are not given adequate sex-ed counseling. Like most contraceptives, condoms are only effective if used properly—if a bunch of teenagers are putting them on wrong, or forgetting to take their birth control pills, they’ll have a false sense of confidence that could result in increased pregnancy rates.
Sex-ed classes should probably just be replayed with a supercut of Farrah Abraham’s parenting tips.
Fox News Anchor Fired for Calling Out Sexual Harrassment
Gretchen Carlson, former co-host of conservative talk show Fox & Friends, has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Fox News’ chairman and CEO, Roger Ailes. According to a statement released by Carlson’s lawyer—in which Ailes is described as “one of the media industry’s most powerful figures”—Carlson was fired from the program on the same day her contract expired, despite high ratings on both Fox & Friends and her own show, The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson. The suit alleges that she was not fired for professional reasons or due to low ratings, but rather for refusing to sleep with Ailes and reporting his “disparaging treatment in the newsroom.”
“I think you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago, and then you’d be good and better and I’d be good and better,” Ailes allegedly said to Carlson at a meeting last year.
Carlson’s lawyer alleges that she was not only sexually harassed by Ailes but also by her colleagues, including co-host Steve Doocy, who would regularly treat her “in a sexist and condescending way,” and “generally attempting to put her in her place by refusing to accept her as an intelligent and insightful female journalist rather than a blonde female prop.”
Although Fox News’ programming regularly skews toward the sexist, racist, and generally deplorable, you’d think this treatment wouldn’t extend to the very personalities who bring in viewers.
Last year, Carlson wrote a blog post about sexual harassment in the workplace for The Huffington Post titled “Sexual Harassment: Not Just a Women’s Issue,” in which she lambasted the pervasive culture of sexual harassment professional women deal with regularly. According to a 2015 Cosmopolitan survey, one in three women has been sexually harassed at work, and the overwhelming majority of women do not report workplace sexual harassment. The American Association of University Women defines sexual harassment as not only outward sexual advances, but also “requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.”
“We have to stop blaming the victim,” she wrote. “Too often, the narrative about sexual harassment is that women bring it on themselves by the way they dress, act, or look. Harassers get a pass in our culture, and it’s clear to me that we have to speak with one voice on this matter and say it’s wrong and we aren’t going to stand for it.”
Margot Robbie: Hot, Blonde, Australian, and Poorly Profiled
Speaking of women being objectified, did you happen to read that absurd Vanity Fair profile of Margot Robbie by Rich Cohen? If not, please do so immediately. We’ll wait.
In the opening paragraph alone, Cohen describes Robbie as “a girl next door,” “beautiful, not in that otherworldly, catwalk way,” and, best (worst?) of all, “sexy and composed even while naked but only in character.” Later on, he compares her to Audrey Hepburn. We get it, she’s hot. If that weren’t bad enough, Cohen attributes Robbie’s hotness to the fact that she’s Australian—“America is so far gone, we have to go to Australia to find a girl next door.” Why? Apparently because Australians are “throwback people,” which is a nice way of saying they’re a wee-bit backward and behind the times.
I challenge a man to profile a female celeb without describing any of her physical features.
— eve peyser (@evepeyser) July 6, 2016
Every issue of Vanity Fair this month comes with a thin sheen of Rich Cohen's semen holding the pagies of Margot Robbie's profile together.
— roxane gay (@rgay) July 6, 2016
Unsurprisingly, the backlash was swift—especially from female writers, as well as people with eyes and a general understanding of sexism—and dozens of mock-profiles appeared almost instantly.
Luckily Vanity Fair also published a piece from a witness at the restaurant pic.twitter.com/WcCrIEFMcJ
— kaye toal (@ohkayewhatever) July 6, 2016
The problem isn’t that a man wrote a profile of Margot Robbie, who is very hot and also talented. The problem isn’t even that a man wrote a profile of Margot Robbie, who is very hot and also talented, and described her as being very hot. The problem is that, first and foremost, before describing Robbie as talented, an up-and-comer, or as anything else, Cohen chose to remind us, hey guys, she’s hot.
Robbie hasn’t been in the public eye for long, and she’s tackled meaty, diverse roles, from a deranged supervillain to a Wall Street housewife—some of these roles partially rely on her hotness, like that of Naomi in The Wolf of Wall Street, but her talent is essential nonetheless. Cohen’s profile took that away, and reduced her to the latest blonde, hot actress to grace our screens.
The Tragic Case of Diamond Reynolds
The country was rocked this week by two back-to-back police shootings. The wrongful deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile are, obviously, deeply disturbing, and after the sniper attack that killed five cops last night in Dallas, it’s horrifying to imagine what the ramifications of all this terror will be. But we should also stop to think about the women affected by said tragedies. The mother of Sterling’s oldest child, Quinyetta McMillon, gave a heartbreaking speech on July 6th, pleading for “adequate punishment” for the officers responsible for his death.
Diamond Reynolds, Philando Castile’s girlfriend, has also experienced an unimaginable ordeal. Reynolds livestreamed video from her cell phone of Castile’s final moments. The video (which, it should be stated, is quite graphic) shows Castile leaning on Reynolds as he bleeds out, their 4-year-old daughter still in the backseat of their car. But Reynolds’ night didn’t end there. After witnessing her boyfriend’s death, she was handcuffed and put in the back of the police cruiser.
As the New York Times pointed out, Reynolds is an extraordinary witness. “I didn’t do it for pity, I didn’t do it for fame,” she said of streaming the video. “I did it so that the world knows that the police are not here to protect and serve us. They are here to assassinate us. They are here to kill us. Because we are black.”
Stay tuned to Milk for more of This Week in Women.
Images via the Associated Press