Good morning, Broadsheet readers! The Weinstein Company is facing a civil rights inquiry, Megyn Kelly refutes Bill O’Reilly’s rep, and Melania Trump speaks out against bullying. Enjoy your Tuesday.
This past weekend, I had the distinct pleasure of moderating an event celebrating the “first girls” of Stuyvesant High School, a math- and science-focused New York City public school and my alma mater. I have close ties to the school—I still count my former classmates among my best friends and mentor a current student—and yet I had never really focused on the people who came before me that made it possible for me to attend.
In 1969—the same year as the launch of Apollo 13, as the Stonewall Inn riots, and as the very first Woodstock Festival—a 13-year-old girl by the name of Alice DeRivera decided she wanted to go to Stuyvesant, then an all-boys’ school. DeRivera filed a suit against the Board of Education with the charge that the school policy was discriminatory and denied girls the ”equal protection of the laws.” When asked to defend the policy, the BoE backed down and acquiesced to demands that girls be allowed in.
Speaking about the suit on a panel Sunday afternoon in New York City, DeRivera (who now goes by her married name, Haines) said that her main reasons for going through with it were that she was “of an opinionated and slightly arrogant disposition” and that she thought the existing policy was “pretty stupid,” since she had scored better than many of the boys on the Stuyvesant entrance exam. (Today, about 3% of exam takers are accepted.) While Haines never ended up attending the school—her parents moved to the suburbs—13 other girls did that fall thanks to her.
Listening to 11 of the 13 “first girls” talk about their experiences that year, here’s what struck me:
1. Sexism is taught.
Not a single panelist complained of sexism on the part of the male students. On the contrary, they say, the boys were extraordinarily welcoming, taking it upon themselves to escort the girls into the building—which was in an unsafe neighborhood—and making sure they were included in afterschool activities. The administration was a different story. Male and female teachers alike made it clear that the girls were unwanted and frequently singled them out. “My teachers treated me like a freak show,” said one alumna, Kathy Parks. “The morning greeting was: Good afternoon gentlemen…and Miss Parks.” One teacher even told a female student who was struggling in class: “You need to do more than just sit there and look pretty and rely on the boys to help you out.”
2. Being first is not glamorous…
While we now celebrate many “firsts” in women’s history—our sister publication Time spent months putting together a project based on that theme—blazing the trail is not so much an epic journey as it is a slog; the recognition and media attention often don’t come until years later—if at all. (Haines received an honorary Stuyvesant diploma in 2013.)
In the case of the panelists, in addition to being ignored (for three years!) by the school principal and listening to male teachers constantly make crude jokes, the first girls of Stuyvesant had to deal with the logistical challenges that came with changing the status quo. The administration converted a men’s bathroom into a women’s restroom in a humiliating way: by covering the urinals with plywood. (“Did they think we were going to use them?”)
3. …but it is rewarding.
The most heartwarming moments of the event were those in which the panelists recognized the impact they had had on the lives of others. Haines received multiple standing ovations and was flanked by alumnae of all ages after the event, telling her what a profound impact her stubbornness had on their lives (a large portion of the school is made up of economically disadvantaged students who would otherwise have gone to their often-struggling local public schools). Another alumna, Lisa Bing of the class of 1977, was awestruck when she saw the school’s cheerleading squad in the audience. She had pestered the administration to start the club and to get funding for uniforms. It still exists decades later.
ALSO IN THE HEADLINES
• #MeToo a civil rights issue? New York’s attorney general has opened an inquiry into the Weinstein Company to examine whether “allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment against its co-founder Harvey Weinstein reflect broad gender discrimination and other civil rights violations,” reports NYT. Weinstein himself is under criminal investigation by the police in New York, Los Angeles, and London for rape allegations. Weinstein and/or his reps have denied all such claims.
New York Times
• Megyn begs to differ. Former Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly blasted Bill O’Reilly, also an ex-Fox News host, after a New York Times report on Saturday said the network renewed his $25-million-per-year contract in February despite a $32 million settlement he’d brokered with a colleague who accused him of sexual harassment. A spokesman for O’Reilly argued that the paper had failed to report that “in the more than 20 years Bill O’Reilly worked at Fox News, not one complaint was filed against him,” but Kelly says that’s simply not true: “I know because I complained.”
• The Trumps on bullying. First Lady Melania Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on Monday chatted with middle school students in Michigan about the dangers of bullying. “It is our responsibility to take the lead in teaching children the values of empathy and communication that are at the core of kindness, mindfulness, integrity, and leadership,” Trump said in a statement announcing the visit. The Washington Post has annotated the statement with her husband’s tweets.
MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Katie Dill is joining Lyft as VP of Design. She joins Lyft from Airbnb where she was the director of experience design. Sue Siegel, CEO of GE Ventures, has been named chief innovation officer for GE. (She will also continue to lead GE Ventures.) The University of Virginia is set to announce Carla Williams as its new athletic director, which would make her the first African American woman to hold such a position among schools in the Power Five conferences.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
• J&J judgments reversed. In the past week, two courts have reversed multi-million dollar judgments awarded to women who’d sued Johnson & Johnson over claims that its talcum powder caused ovarian cancer. One court cited “insufficient evidence” in tossing a $417 million award while another vacated a $72 million award, stating it’d been filed in the wrong jurisdiction. Thousands of women have sued the company over its talcum power; J&J insists the product is safe.
New York Times
• Asia’s woman problem. According to the latest data out of the UN’s specialized International Labor Organization, economies around the world have seen an increase in female labor force participation between 1995 and 2015. The one region bucking the trend is Asia (Southeast, South, and East), where the number of female workers has either stagnated or declined. One major reason for the lack of progress? Women remain almost exclusively responsible for looking after both children and the elderly—and few companies give paid time off or allow employees to work from home.
• Alexa, hire more women. Of Amazon’s 18 most powerful executives, 17 are men. The only woman at the SVP-level or above is Beth Galetti, Amazon’s senior vice president of human resources. Looking at the layer of management below that (VP-level or similar), 74% of Amazon executives are white men. That compares to 68% at Apple, 65% at Google, and 51% at Facebook, according to Recode. Women at this level include Toni Reid, a VP overseeing Alexa; Stephenie Landry, a VP who runs Prime Now; and Jennifer Cast, the VP running the company’s Amazon Books retail store initiative.
• The more you know. I was tickled by this anecdote from a female gamer, who recalls admitting to other players in an online video game that she was a woman after years of pretending to be a man in order to avoid harassment: “Thanks, I’m a girl though, probably old enough to be your mum,” she said. “And then someone else was like, ‘Me too,’ and then another one said, ‘Me too’ and it turned out the whole server was full of women. We had just all assumed that we were dudes.’”
ON MY RADAR
How these two women finally exposed Harvey Weinstein
Gabrielle Union is captain of Team F— It
Tom Hanks’s writing is yet another sad story of how men write women
George Clooney and Matt Damon say they knew Weinstein was a womanizer, not a predator