While You Were Out: J. Law Outearns Chris Pratt, #GIRLBOSS Controversy, Pope Francis on Climate Change, and More

#GIRLBOSS vs. #goodboss
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#GIRLBOSS vs. #goodboss
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“While You Were Out” is a Friday feature of short notes and commentary from the week. Whether it’s something you’d discuss at the watercooler or at happy hour, you’ll find it on our grid, together with our opinion as to if it’s praiseworthy or cringeworthy. We’re pleased to bring you the Verily editors’ quick takes on the happenings of this week.

Rachel Dolezal Facing Investigations

It would have been hard to miss this week’s uproar over the story of Rachel Dolezal, a 37-year-old white American woman who told Matt Lauer on the Today Show Tuesday that she “identif[ies] as black.” The comment—and the situation as a whole—has sparked a heated global conversation about questions of race and identity. Dolezal’s story blew up when her estranged white parents claimed that she has been trying to pass herself off as African-American for almost a decade, despite being of Swedish, German, and Czech descent. Dolezal, a civil rights campaigner who had been working as the president of the Spokane, Wash., NAACP chapter as well as teaching Africana Studies at Eastern Washington University, resigned from her NAACP post Monday. She is facing investigations following the allegation that she misrepresented her ethnicity on her application for the city commission.

Sophie Caldecott

Life Is Harder for Parents Who Have Kids Later

According to a recent article from Quartz, Generation X’s trend of having children later isn’t turning out so well. With the number of first-time moms ages 35 and older being nine times higher today than it was in the 1970s, more and more people are discovering that middle age is a less-than-ideal time to start raising a family. Katrina Alcorn, author of Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink, says that women are increasingly finding “themselves in their forties, sandwiched between raising young kids and trying to take care of aging parents while also trying to support their families financially . . . It’s too much.” Not everyone has the luxury of choice about when—and if—they can start a family, but society’s increasingly unsupportive attitude toward parents (whatever their age) sure isn’t helping matters.

SC

New Study Finds That Nature Makes Kids Smarter

Points for nature! Based on a study involving more than two thousand school children in Barcelona, Spain, that was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, schools that are surrounded by green spaces have the potential to “boost cognitive outcomes” in students by lessening the pollution around the school (which can affect brain function and physical health) and by providing a calmer learning environment through the reduction of city noise. Given the large percentage of children in the United States who attend school in urban environments, it would be impossible for all our students to be surrounded by nature while learning—but the study will hopefully encourage everyone to lobby for the planting of more trees in school neighborhoods that currently only have concrete, the creation of urban gardens in schoolyards, and the acceptance that a trip to the park can be just as beneficial to a child’s well-being as sitting at a desk memorizing facts.

Monica Weigel

The Scary Power of Twitter

Last week, we reported on Nobel laureate scientist Tim Hunt’s sexist remarks at a luncheon of women science journalists. I said at the time that I wanted to believe he was making a (tasteless) joke and that he had resigned from his position at the University College London. In further reporting on the topic, The Guardian discovered that Hunt was never asked for his version of the events nor was any investigation launched into whether Hunt had actually ever discriminated against any female employees in his lab.

None of this excuses Hunt’s remarks—again, those remarks are absurd and should have been reported. But I have to ask whether Twitter outrage and having Hunt fired is actually good for women in science—or women anywhere. I’ll admit, my own initial reaction to his resignation was, “Well, good, one less sexist guy making life harder for women.” I acknowledge that I probably shouldn’t have been so dismissive—and neither should have his employers. If an investigation found that he was unduly hard on women or biased against them, by all means, take action as you would with any other case of discrimination. But that’s not what happened. Indeed, an article in Time by Cambridge professor of physics Athene Donald indicated that Hunt “actively championed women for appointments and promotions and offered support where he could.” Doesn’t quite sound like Hunt’s joking remark about having a reputation as a chauvinist was true.

Ultimately, I won’t try to judge Hunt’s actual sexism or lack thereof. But I do hope that we’ll all pause a beat longer to consider what’s happening the (inevitable) next time Twitter blows up over a topic. I know I will.

Kara Eschbach

Helen Mirren Reads Extracts from the U.S. Senate’s Torture Report

John Oliver tried to make the U.S. Senate’s report on CIA torture more accessible on Sunday’s Last Week Tonight by getting the legendary Helen Mirren to read excerpts from the document, audio-book style. Even Mirren’s dulcet tones couldn’t make the shocking and graphic details of the report sound OK, though. Explaining what exactly the “enhanced interrogation techniques” used by the CIA involve (spoiler alert: you’ll never see hummus the same way again), Oliver went on to point out that despite 57 percent of Americans believing that “aggressive tactics provide information to prevent terror attacks,” the report reveals that such techniques are not effective. As Oliver put it, “If enhanced interrogation were not torture, which it is, and even if torture did work, which it doesn’t, America should not be a country that tortures people . . . because it is brutal, it is medieval, and it is beneath us.”

SC

Never Enough Shades of Grey, Apparently . . .

The Fifty Shades of Grey franchise continues to find ways to make money off low-brow taste. Author E. L. James’ new novel, Grey (out yesterday), retells the sordid tale of Christian and Anastasia from the male perspective. As someone who has neither read the books nor seen the movie, I have a hard time understanding the need for this latest installment—let alone the fan fervor that prompted last week’s theft of a copy from a Random House office in Kent, England, and the subsequent police activity to stop any early leaking of the material. However, I suppose one can see this as a fresh opportunity to scrutinize fellow subway passengers to see who is looking just a bit sheepish behind their choice of reading material.

MW

Charitable Contributions on the Rebound

According to a Giving USA report released Tuesday, total charitable giving by individuals, corporations, foundation, and bequests increased by 7.1 percent from 2013 to 2014.

Americans gave an estimated $358 billion to charity in 2014, about $47 billion more than they gave in 2007, the previous peak of charitable giving in the United States. Last year marked the fifth year of increased giving, a surprise to even the charities themselves, which didn’t expect to surpass prerecession donations for several more years. Many Americans switched their donations toward human services during the recession, but donors are once again supporting many of the same causes they donated to prerecession.

Hannah Allen White

Pope Francis Against Climate Change

True to form, the pope well known for using the visibility of church office to bluntly address the issues of our time was almost scathing in his latest encyclical on the environment, Laudato si'. In it, he decries consumerism and irresponsible development; describes a relentless exploitation and destruction of the environment; and blames it on apathy, the reckless pursuit of profits and excessive faith in technology, and political shortsightedness.

Francis is the first pope to come from a developing country, and his care for the least privileged seems to be the driving force behind most of his statements. This case was no different: The encyclical noted that the most vulnerable victims of environmental destruction are the world’s poorest people, and subsequently, they are the ones being dislocated and disregarded.

Francis didn’t stop there. Warning of an “unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequence for all of us” if swift action is not taken, the encyclical said that developed, industrialized countries are mostly responsible for the crisis and are obligated to help poorer nations confront it.

HAW

Rashida Jones Confronts the Porn Industry

Actress Rashida Jones has released a documentary on a topic that traditionally gets a lot of views and little scrutiny: amateur porn. Called Hot Girls Wanted, the film is on a topic I’m not too surprised to see being tackled by Jones, considering her 2013 essay in Glamour questioning the pornification of pop culture. Back then, the comedienne cited examples like that of Miley Cyrus’ hypersexualized performances as bringing us to “a point of oversaturation.” Considering that a clip from Cyrus’ Bangerz tour has since been included in NYC’s Porn Film Festival this past year, I can see how Jones’ exploration of one topic led to the other. While we have not yet watched the documentary (stay tuned), we are excited to see the talented and incisive Jones shedding light on an industry that too often bases its success on the exploitation of people who have no advocates in the public square.

Mary Rose Somarriba

The Yuccie Is the New Hipster Was the New Yuppie

Does the gentrification of your neighborhood spark conflicting feelings of sadness and excitement? Do you refer to your job at an upcycled-sock start-up as your “passion”? Are you really into artisanal craft beers? If so, you might be a Yuccie.

In an article that has clearly touched a nerve, a 26-year-old Mashable writer claims that Yuccies, or Young Urban Creatives, are “the cultural offspring of yuppies and hipsters. We’re intent on being successful like yuppies and creative like hipsters.” But the true hallmark of the Yuccie, he goes on to say, is a solid amount of privilege.

It’s possible that many of the article’s readers felt the uncomfortable sting of self-recognition before they got to the end, but a little self-awareness never hurt anyone. Maybe we Yuccies can think of ways to channel that ambition and education into something that makes the world a little better and not just into ourselves?

Christine Emba

New Emojis Are Coming!

BIG NEWS: This week, the Unicode Consortium announced the release of thirty-seven new emojis, including a face rolling its eyes, a unicorn head, and a burrito (where have you been all my life?). It’s unclear exactly when the new emojis will be ready to use, but speculators assume that they may appear with the release of iOS 9 this fall.

New emojis are selected by the Unicode Emoji Subcommittee, which reviews submissions from the Unicode Consortium based on a number of different criteria: how often a proposed emoji would be used, how distinct it is from existing emojis, and how often it is requested. I can’t be the only one to wonder what that job is like—and why the Consortium decided to make the moon so creepy . . .

CE

It’s an Intern’s Life

Because life kind of sucks as an investment banker, Goldman Sachs has instituted a policy that summer interns must return home from the hours of midnight to 7 a.m. But who will stay up to flip through the pitch book for tomorrow’s meeting? As a former first-year analyst myself (aka, the full-time post-undergraduate hires, not interns), I couldn’t help but think: Oh, don’t worry, all the first-year analysts will just do the work. It’s nice to see banks backing away from the ridiculous idea of face time—if you aren’t actually working on something, go enjoy your life!—but when crunch time hits, I highly doubt they’re going to be OK losing business to a competitor.

KE

#GIRLBOSS May Not Be a #goodboss

According to reports, several former employees of the clothing company Nasty Gal are in arbitration over being fired while pregnant or about to take parental leave. The more detractive part of the story is that founder Sophia Amoruso, who wrote the bestselling entrepreneurship memoir #GIRLBOSS, is reportedly a really terrible boss, and the new management brought in by Nasty Gal’s venture capital backers are cutthroat, out of touch with the brand, and ruining the company culture. It’s sad to see that a company—and a personal brand—so imbued with #girlpower wouldn’t take better care of its pregnant employees, of all things. Just goes to show that we have so much work to do to make the workplace and motherhood more compatible.

KE

Equal Pay Win: J. Law Outearns Chris Pratt

Oscar winner and America’s current sweetheart Jennifer Lawrence scored a major win for women’s pay equality this past week when she signed on for the romantic sci-fi drama Passengers opposite rising star Chris Pratt.

Perhaps in response to the backlash of the Sony email hack, which confirmed the institutionalized practice of male actors making more than their female counterparts, Lawrence struck one heck of a deal in exchange for her talent and box office appeal: According to the Hollywood Reporter, the American Hustle star will make $20 million and 30 percent of the back end whereas Pratt will make $12 million.

This is an excellent example of “equal” not necessarily meaning “the same” but rather fair compensation for everything a person brings to the table. Chris Pratt is on a hot streak following consecutive box-office successes Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World, but leading-man territory is still new for the actor. Lawrence, on the other hand, won an Academy Award for her performance in Silver Linings Playbook and currently bears the weight of leading The Hunger Games saga, one of the biggest franchises in cinema history.

HAW

The Golden State Warriors Win the NBA finals

Say it ain’t so! This Cleveland native is mourning the Cavaliers’ loss in the near-historic NBA finals this week. LeBron James and his teammates put up a close fight against the Golden State Warriors, but ultimately the injury-ridden Ohio team couldn’t outshoot the California victors, led by MVP Steph Curry (and his adorable mini-me daughter, Riley—the only thing that helps soften the blow). That said, making it to game six in the finals with two of your three main musketeers on the bench is nothing to sneeze at. A remarkable show by all.

MRS