Mixed Media

The President of the Boy Scouts of America Just Endorsed Dropping the Ban on Gay Leaders

| Thu May 21, 2015 2:14 PM EDT

The president of Boy Scouts of America is calling for an end to the organization's ban on gay leaders, saying the "status quo in our movement's membership standards cannot be sustained." Robert Gates, who was speaking at the group's annual summit on Thursday, said the changes would not be made at the meeting, but indicated officials should look into revisions in the future.

In Gates's remarks, the former defense secretary urged the organization to "deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it be." His address, sure to ruffle a few feathers, stopped short of supporting gay rights outright. Instead, Gates said that the policy shift was necessary to keep the organization nationally relevant.

"While our work won't be done until we see a full end to their ban on gay adults once and for all, today's announcement is a significant step in that direction," Zach Wahls, director for Equality, said in response to Thursday's announcement. "I'm proud to see Dr. Gates charting a course towards full equality in the BSA."

In 2013, the Boy Scouts of America voted to allow openly gay scouts—gay leaders however were not included in the changes. Just yesterday, the Girls Scouts of America double downed on the group's welcoming of transgender girls.

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This Story Maggie Gyllenhaal Just Told Perfectly Explains the Hollywood Sexism Complex

| Thu May 21, 2015 12:46 PM EDT

Maggie Gyllenhaal recently lost a film role because she was apparently "too old" to play the love interest of a 55-year-old man, the 37-year-old actress revealed in a new interview with The Wrap.

"There are things that are really disappointing about being an actress in Hollywood that surprise me all the time,” Gyllenhall said. "I'm 37 and I was told recently I was too old to play the lover of a man who was 55. It was astonishing to me."

While she declined to identify the project's name—because Gyllenhall is all class—she said she was eventually able to laugh off the rejection. 

"It made me feel bad, and then it made me feel angry, and then it made me laugh."

Back in January, Gyllenhaal picked up a Golden Globe award for her performance in the BBC miniseries The Honourable Woman. During her acceptance speech, she stressed the importance of Hollywood embracing the roles of real women.

"When I look around the room at the women who are here and I think about the performances that I've watched this year what I see actually are women who are sometimes powerful and sometimes not, sometimes sexy, sometimes not, sometimes honorable, sometimes not," she said onstage. "What I think is new is the wealth of roles for actual women in television and in film. That's what I think is revolutionary and evolutionary and it's what's turning me on."

Despite Gyllenhaal's optimism, it sure looks like Hollywood is hell bent on keeping ageism securely intact. 

This New Study Shows Sexual Assault on College Campuses Has Reached "Epidemic" Levels

| Wed May 20, 2015 4:19 PM EDT

A new study published online by the Journal of Adolescent Health suggests college sexual assault may be far more prevalent than previously believed. The study, titled "Incapacitated and Forcible Rape of College Women: Prevalence Across the First Year," which focused on first-year female students at one New York college, attempted to measure how frequently rape or attempted rape occurred by having female students fill out surveys throughout their freshman year.

Of the 483 women who completed the questionnaires, 18.6 percent reported instances of attempted rape. Incidences of rape were significantly higher when alcohol or drugs were involved.

"Sexual violence on campus has reached epidemic levels," the study's authors wrote. "During their first year in college, one in seven women will have experienced incapacitated assault or rape and nearly one in 10 will have experienced forcible assault or rape. Interventions to reduce sexual violence on campus are urgently needed."

Past studies have posted similar rates. One study reported one in five women suffering from some form of sexual violence during their college careers.  What is striking about these new findings is that they indicate high levels of such sexual assault in just a single year and early on in a woman's college experience.

As Jesse Singal at the Science of Us blog notes, scientifically measuring the frequency of sexual violence is a complex and difficult task: What one person considers to be sexual assault someone else might not.  In addition, this latest study only focused on one campus—making it impossible to generalize on a national scale.

But as recent events have shown, sexual violence on college campuses is a persistent problem. For decades, conservatives have resisted calls for campuses to better protect women by dismissing the issue. With the fallout over Rolling Stone's botched campus rape investigation only fueling detractors, it's especially important for studies like the one published by the Journal of Adolescent Health to provide solid data to legitimize the problem so that potential assaults might be avoided.

Michelle Obama Can Kick Your Ass

| Wed May 20, 2015 11:32 AM EDT

Feeling pleased with your morning run or cardio stroll? Well here's a reminder that Michelle Obama, who was already likely to be crushing you in most parts of your life, rules when it comes to the exercise game.  

In a new video posted to her @FLOTUS account, the first lady responded to the president's #GimmeFive challenge by showing off her fierce workout skills—boxing, lifting, and jumping rope. 

So thanks for the assist Lebron, but this glimpse into Obama's workout proves once again the first lady can hold court all on her own.

Columbia Student Defiantly Carries Mattress to Graduation to Protest Sexual Assault

| Tue May 19, 2015 2:20 PM EDT

Emma Sulkowicz, the Columbia University student who protested her alleged sexual assault by carrying a mattress every day to campus last year, graduated today. The mattress, the defining symbol of her assault and senior arts thesis titled Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight), was also present at Tuesday's ceremony, despite the school administration urging students not to bring large items that could potentially "create discomfort to others."

Sulkowicz was seen hauling her mattress to the ceremony with the help of friends and fellow graduating students. According to Columbia Spectator editor Teo Armus, when Sulkowicz went on stage to collect her diploma, she pointedly did not shake university president Lee Bollinger's hand.

In September, Sulkowicz became a national figure and an unofficial spokesperson for sexual assault activists after she went public with her rape. She vowed to carry the mattress to class for as long as the student who she says assaulted her was not prosecuted or expelled. In April, her alleged rapist, Paul Nungesser, filed a lawsuit against the university claiming administrators exhibited bias and failed to protect him from the accusations. He says their alleged failure "destroyed" his college experience and reputation. 

Nungesser also graduated and was present at Tuesday's ceremony.

 

Taylor Swift: "Misogyny Is Ingrained in People From the Time They Are Born"

| Tue May 19, 2015 9:36 AM EDT

According to this year's "Hot 100" list, an annual inventory in which Maxim's editors meticulously rank famous women by level of attractiveness, Taylor Swift is 2015's reigning queen of female hotness. Rather than use the title to gloat about her declared hotness, Swift used the magazine's cover to call out the double standards women face everyday and the importance of feminism in her life today: From Maxim:

Honestly, I didn't have an accurate definition of feminism when I was younger. I didn't quite see all the ways that feminism is vital to growing up in the world we live in. I think that when I used to say, "Oh, feminism's not really on my radar," it was because when I was just seen as a kid, I wasn't as threatening. I didn't see myself being held back until I was a woman. Or the double standards in headlines, the double standards in the way stories are told, the double standards in the way things are perceived.

Swift's interview is especially noteworthy considering in 2012, she shied away from the label to the Daily Beast, telling the news site she didn't view matters as a "guys versus girls" situation. This was also during a time in which the media unfairly portrayed Swift as something of a pathetic boy chaser—a female singer who used her lyrics to lament about the latest boy who got away.

Since then, she has shattered that image with very real, thoughtful insight into an industry built on sexist frameworks:

A man writing about his feelings from a vulnerable place is brave; a woman writing about her feelings from a vulnerable place is oversharing or whining. Misogyny is ingrained in people from the time they are born. So to me, feminism is probably the most important movement that you could embrace, because it's just basically another word for equality.

This is what young girls need today. Now, we leave you with her badass new video, "Bad Blood."

 

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John Oliver Explains How the Chicken Industry Systematically Screws Over Impoverished Farmers

| Mon May 18, 2015 9:56 AM EDT

Americans eat a ton of chicken—so much so, chicken farmers produce 160 million chicks a week just to keep up with national consumption, according to the latest "Last Week Tonight." But despite the industry's massive output, many contract farmers live near or below the poverty line, all while working under the constant fear of losing their jobs. And that's because the business model is such that farmers own the equipment used to raise the chickens, and corporations own the chickens.

"That essentially means you own everything that costs money, and we own everything that makes money," Oliver explains.

Perhaps the most damning part of the segment is a defense from Tom Super of the National Chicken Council, who responded to the question of why farmers live under the poverty line with the following: "Which poverty line are you referring to? Is that a national poverty line? Is that a state poverty line? The poverty line in Mississippi and Alabama is different than it is in New York City.”

"What the fuck are you talking about?" Oliver shot back. "It doesn't matter. The poverty line is like the age of consent: if you find yourself parsing exactly where it is, you’ve probably already done something very, very wrong."

For Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, a Strong Round 2

| Mon May 18, 2015 6:00 AM EDT

Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell
The Traveling Kind
Nonesuch

If only Hollywood sequels were this good. Following Old Yellow Moon, their captivating 2013 collaboration, rootsy stalwarts Emmylou and Rodney have recombined for another go-round, which may be even more entertaining than its predecessor. The two first crossed paths professionally 40 (!) years ago, when Crowell joined Harris’ band. Their recent work together has underscored the virtues of experience and, yes, age. No longer needing to prove anything, both seem as loose and confident as they've ever been, delivering heartrending tunes like "You Can't Say We Didn't Try" with the simple, sure-handed eloquence that marked the Everly Brothers' best, and rockin' out in fine style on the rollicking "Bring It on Home to Memphis." Harris' still-beautiful voice has acquired a darker, slightly rougher texture that adds authority, while the weathered grace of Crowell's singing makes him a perfect match. A fine job by all concerned, including the stellar players.

Blast From the Past: Billy Ward and His Dominoes

| Mon May 18, 2015 6:00 AM EDT

Billy Ward and His Dominoes
The Complete King/Federal Singles
Real Gone Music

Superstars on the 1950s R&B scene, Billy Ward's Dominoes launched the careers of two amazing singers: Clyde McPhatter, who later fronted the earliest incarnation of the Drifters on such hits as "Money Honey" and "Such a Night," and Jackie Wilson, whose high-energy solo smashes included "Lonely Teardrops" and "Baby Workout." While this two-disc, 58-track collection is a mixed bag thanks to the corny likes of "Three Coins in the Fountain" and "When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano," the high points are undeniably thrilling. Among them: the outrageously sleazy "Sixty Minute Man," showcasing single-entendre bass vocalist Bill Brown; the funereal lament 'The Bells," wherein McPhatter mixes hysterical sobbing and piercing shrieks in truly bizarre fashion; and Wilson's rip-snorting "You Can't Keep a Good Man Down." Crank up the time machine, pop a top, and let the fun begin.
 

The Thrill Is Gone. RIP B.B. King.

| Fri May 15, 2015 6:26 AM EDT

Legendary blues guitarist B.B. King died late Thursday in Las Vegas. He was 89.

Hailed as the "King of the Blues," King was born Riley B. King on September 16, 1925 on a Mississippi cotton plantation. Introduced to music through gospel, King ascended through the ranks as one of the greatest blues artists of all time. The 15-time Grammy winner seemingly never retired, continuing to perform for over seven decades. King had been suffering from diabetes and was recently in hospice care.

RIP.