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Grammys 2019, Justin Fairfax, Confidence Gap: Broadsheet for February 11

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Virginia’s mess gets messier, a fifth woman joins the Democratic presidential race, and we take issue with a NYT hot-take. Make the most of your Monday.


• Plugging the confidence gap. There’s no doubt this NYT op-ed by Lisa Damour meant well. The clinical psychologist tries to make sense of a trend she’s spotted in her practice: that teenage girls are excelling in school with maximum output, while their male counterparts often succeed with far less effort and far more confidence.

“That [male] experience—of succeeding in school while exerting minimal or moderate effort—is a potentially crucial one,” Damour surmises. “It may help our sons develop confidence, as they see how much they can accomplish simply by counting on their wits.”

For boys, she argues, school can be an environment that grooms a belief in their own abilities and where they become at ease relying on their own skills. “Our daughters, on the other hand, may miss the chance to gain confidence in their abilities if they always count on intellectual elbow grease alone,” Damour writes. Those habits are propelling girls in academics, but maybe they’re holding girls back in the workplace.

So, the question becomes, how to free girls from their “hyper-conscientious” state? Damour’s answer:

  1. Parents and teachers can stop praising them for “inefficient overwork, even if it results in good grades”
  2. Girls can be encouraged to focus on an “economy of effort” at school, “rather than how many hours they put in”
  3. And they can be reassured that anxiety about school is “normal and healthy”

Of course, the confidence gap is a real issue—as is the alarming rate of anxiety and depression among teenage girls—but it feels entirely wrongheaded to pin this problem on girls trying too hard.

Damour, to her credit, does do plenty of caveating: “[T]he confidence gap is hardly the only thing keeping women out of top jobs. Women also face gender bias, sexual harassment and powerful structural barriers in the workplace.”

Fair enough. But even the slightest suggestion that young women should temper their ambition and work ethic to better fit into discriminatory workplaces later on is an abhorrent misplacing of blame.

Instead of asking girls to take it easy, how about we demand that schools, workplaces, and society at large evaluate their achievements on the same plane as men’s.

“Many professional men brim with confidence because they have spent years getting to know their abilities. Women should arrive in the work world having done the same,” Damour writes in her closing argument.

But confidence, I’d counter, is not entirely self-made.  New York Times


• Golden girls. Women dominated last night at the Grammys, with Alicia Keys hosting, Kacey Musgraves capturing album of the year, and Cardi B becoming the first female solo artist ever to win best rap album. It was a stark departure from last year, when just one woman won a solo award and the outgoing head of the Recording Academy said women in music should “step up” to advance their careers. “I guess this year we really stepped up,” said British artist Dua Lipa, who won best new artist.  L.A. Times

• Messier in Virginia. After a second woman accused Justin Fairfax of sexual assault on Friday (he denies this charge too), Virginia’s lieutenant governor is facing calls from the state’s Democratic House and Senate caucuses to resign, and at least one state representative is threatening Fairfax with articles of impeachment if he doesn’t step down.  Politico

2020 tidbits. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) officially launched her presidential bid on Saturday, telling a crowd in Lawrence, Massachusetts, that she’s running to change a country she says is “rigged by the wealthy.” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D–Minn.) announced her own bid in Minneapolis on Sunday under a cloud of allegations that she’s mistreated staff in the past. And Politico wonders whether the U.S. is ready for an unmarried commander-in-chief, as would be the case with a Cory Booker (D-N.J.) presidency.

Big brother. Here’s someone who’s not running for office: Princess Ubolratana of Thailand. After the Thai Raksa Chart party stunned the world by submitting her name as its PM candidate on Friday, Ubolratana’s brother, the king, intervened. He argued that the move, which broke the royal family’s long-standing tradition of staying out of politics, was “inappropriate” and “unconstitutional.” The party says it will comply with the royal command.  Economist

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Kristina Salen, previously of Etsy and UnitedMasters, is Moda Operandi’s new CFO. Jennifer Betka has joined Indigo Ag, Inc. as chief marketing officer. Anaplan has appointed Ana Pinczuk as SVP and chief transformation officer.


Royal runaway. In more princess news, the saga of Sheikha Latifa of Dubai is worthy of your time. The 33-year-old daughter of the United Arab Emirates’ prime minister escaped her restrictive life in the oil-wealthy Emirate by car, inflatable raft, Jet Ski, and—finally— yacht. In Dubai, she’d been denied request to travel and study abroad; her passport had been confiscated, she couldn’t visit friends, and she was kept from her dream of studying medicine. This dramatic story doesn’t have a happy ending. She was captured several days after running away and hasn’t been heard from directly since.  New York Times

• Gal pals. As Americans fall out of love with Valentine’s Day (51% will celebrate this year, down from a high of 63% in 2007), Galentine’s Day is on the upswing. Given its growing popularity, retailers from Party City to Hallmark to Walmart are looking to cash in on the celebration of female friendships inspired by the TV show Parks and Recreation Wall Street Journal

Rosalind’s rover. After a competition elicited 36,000 suggestions, the European Union has decided to name its next Mars rover, set to launch in 2020, after noted scientist Rosalind Franklin. The British chemist in 1953 provided the first visual evidence of DNA’s double-helix structure after X-raying a strand. She died five years later and her contribute to science was, for too long, overlooked. The Verge

• Price to pay. Country musician Margo Price was nominated for best new artist at the Grammys last night (she lost to Dua Lipa), despite being largely ignored by the genre’s star-making radio stations. Her gender—men account for up to 90% of Billboard’s top 40 country radio hits—and her feminist lyrics have relegated her to the sub-genre of Americana. “Programmers just don’t know what to do with her,” says R.J. Curtis, executive director of the Country Radio Broadcasters trade group. “Man, we’re missing out.”  Washington Post

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Her title: cryptologic technician. Her occupation: warrior.  New York Times

The women left behind by #MeToo in India  BBC

The Lutheran pastor calling for a sexual reformation  New Yorker

Nigeria’s ‘flying midwives’ are helping save moms and babies  Time


I’m going to ski my last run at 100%. I’m not the kind of person who’s going to ski down in a dress. That’s not my style.
Lindsey Vonn before the final downhill event of her storied career at the world ski championships in Are, Sweden. She won bronze.