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Gwen Stefani’s Emotional Breakup Ballad and Other Notes from the Week


We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—the Verily editors’ quick takes on the happenings of this week.

Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s Generous Move

Hot on the heels of last week’s announcement of the birth of their daughter, Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan have some more big news to share with the world. On Tuesday the couple revealed that they will be donating 99 percent of their wealth from Facebook shares to various charitable causes throughout their lifetimes. In an open letter (on Facebook, of course) to their baby daughter, Max, Zuckerberg wrote: “You’ve already given us a reason to reflect on the world we hope you live in. Like all parents, we want you to grow up in a world better than ours today.” He went on to describe the “moral responsibility” that they feel they have “to all children in the next generation,” and they outline their plans to alleviate poverty and promote equality by contributing to personalized learning, connecting people, building strong communities, and curing disease through their new Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. The shares that they are planning to donate currently amount to approximately $45 billion—what an incredible gift. Congratulations to Mark and Priscilla, and welcome to the world, baby Max! —Sophie Caldecott

I Used to Love Songs Like These

Gwen Stefani’s new breakup ballad “Used to Love You” has been wildly successful this past month. Rolling Stone describes her performance at the American Music Awards in one word: “emotional.” Time calls her performance on The Voice this week “stunning.” And is it ever. I teared up the first time I clicked on it, and that wasn’t the last.

In an October interview on the Today Show with the coaches of The Voice, Stefani shares, “I wrote that song a couple weeks ago. And I sat in front of a camera in a dressing room randomly—not making a video—just to do some video for the screens behind me. And then it was the video, all very real.” In it Stefani’s expressions vacillate among sadness, anger, and confusion. This spontaneous single take, originally meant for her American Music Awards performance, turned out to become the official video for “Used to Love You.” It’s painful to watch. She exhibits the tumult of feelings that those who’ve been heartbroken know all too well, myself included.

“I’ve never put a record out where I’m actually going through things in real time,” Stefani continues. In August 2015, she and Gavin Rossdale, her husband of thirteen years and the father of their three children—9-year-old Kingston, 6-year-old Zuma, and 1-year-old Apollo—announced their divorce. I was devastated not only because I’ve been a loyal fan of her music but also because where celebrity divorce seems so common, I had hope for their marriage. For me, Stefani was a successful model of balancing family with career. But, from what I’ve read, the divorce has been rather ugly. Like Stefani, I can’t help but feel sad for her. Yet I find myself feeling even sadder for her children. Her lyrics run, “I dont know why I cry / But I think its because I remembered for the first time / Since I hated you / That I used to love you.” Hate. Used to love. These are strong words for a person to witness their mother saying about their father, no matter how warranted or captivating the delivery.

We tend to do things we regret when we’re hurt. Perhaps for Stefani, this may become one of those things. Sadness in itself isn’t bad. It’s the resentment, dismay, and despair that so often accompany it. At the heart of it, maybe that is what she’s trying to say has been most painful for her. In a radio interview, Stefani shares, “I had been writing because my life blew up. I was going along thinking that was going to be the rest of my life, and it’s not. I don’t know what happened. I’ve always wanted to write music so desperately because doing it is one thing that really validates me for myself.” While I appreciate and empathize with the rawness and honesty she imparts in this song, I hope that the rest of her work growing out of this experience will exhibit that she has found forgiveness, peace, and most of all, love. This, above all else, is true validation of one’s strength. —Krizia Liquido

Close, But No Cigar

The 2016 Pirelli calendar made a marked change this year by selecting women for the calendar based on their résumés rather than their bodies. Ten of the women, including Yoko Ono and Patti Smith, posed for the calendar photo shoot completely clothed. Two, however, did not. Amy Schumer and Serena Williams posed nearly nude and are being praised for showing their curvy figures. While confidence is an admirable quality, willingness to bear all is not a prerequisite.

In the words of Baleigh Scott for Verily this week: “I am elated to see that these ladies are comfortable in their own skin, but I think it is odd and somewhat troubling to associate confidence with one’s willingness to appear nude in public, as the latter is neither a requirement nor a guarantee of the former. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: One’s willingness to walk around naked is a poor measure of confidence. These photos, stunning as they are, seem to say, ‘I am confident in who I am, and I’ll prove it by leaving nothing to the imagination,’ as though the height of confidence is to do publicly what is traditionally done privately.” Check out the full story here. —Diana Stancy

Sinead O’Connor’s Public Battle with Mental Illness

This week, Irish singer Sinead O’Connor scared countless fans by announcing in a Facebook post that she was committing suicide with an overdose. Thankfully she was found by the Irish police soon after and later taken to the hospital. Many of the singer’s recent social media posts have been directed at her family, accusing them of being neglectful and cruel and pleading with them to come see her. As Baleigh Scott shared with us so insightfully yesterday, it can be easy to rush to a snap judgment of her family’s behavior without knowing the full story. Her piece, which comes from someone who know what it’s like to have mental illness in the family, is a poignant reminder that the situation is always more complicated than people on the outside can realize. —SC

College President Says He Isn’t Trying to Coddle Students

The president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, Dr. Everett Piper, recently published a blog post saying that modern students are too quick to play the “victim card,” saying, “This is not a day care. It’s a university.” As Anna Quinlan writes, we need to work out “the difference between colleges that disregard actual safety and those that disregard the safety of students’ feelings.” It’s one thing, for example, to want to tackle deeply ingrained campus rape culture and offer protection to students from bodily harm—it’s quite another to try to shelter them from encountering opinions a little different from their own. —SC

Surprise, Surprise

This week a porn star has been under fire after receiving rape accusations from three costarring women. The accused actor James Deen also apparently likes to make jokes about rape all over Twitter, which, though they don’t criminalize him, certainly don’t help his case. Among them: “It’s not rape if you yell surprise,” which he reprised three times in 2009, 2011, and 2012. While Deen’s case has yet to be settled, one thing sadly isn’t a surprise: The porn industry and the sex industry at large are rife with abuses such as rape. It’s good to finally see women’s cases, too often silenced or slandered, finally getting serious attention. —Mary Rose Somarriba

Recent Research Shows Gender Differences in the Way Brains Age

In a recent piece for the New York Magazine science section, Dr. Christian Jarrett writes that while there has been a lot of ridiculous pseudoscience in the study of male-female brain differences, he believes “that we shouldn’t sweep research on sex-based brain differences under the carpet in the interest of political correctness just because some misguided writers use the field to make sweeping generalizations about men’s and women’s abilities and personalities.” Specifically, he’s referring to new findings that suggest we shouldn’t assume brain aging and disease function the same way for men and women. Between this and another recent study that suggests brains aren’t actually “male” or “female,” it’s hard to know what to believe as far as the neuroscience goes. As I wrote for Verily last year, we need to be open to each other’s differences without using them to limit and prejudge one another. —SC

‘Motherhood Changes You Completely’

This week as Katie Holmes graced the latest cover of Ocean Drive, the actress shared some personal insights in the interview inside. Among them, gems such as this: “[Motherhood] changes you completely in such amazing ways, and I think that you become who you were meant to be.” How well put! As a mom myself, I can’t help but find words such as these empowering. Because, yes, motherhood may come with a lot of challenges, but it’s in meeting them that we have enormous room to grow. And on harried days, it’s well worth being reminded. —MRS