Demands lead to threats, experts say, then to violence and shame.
American Ballet Theater announced a multiyear initiative on Wednesday that will support the creation and the staging of new works by female choreographers. The A.B.T. Women’s Movement, which will support at least three female choreographers each season, grew out of Ballet Theater’s Women’s Choreographers Initiative, which has already funded dances by Jessica Lang, Lauren Lovette and Dana Genshaft.
“I realized at the beginning of last year that my future plans for the next three years included a majority of women,” Kevin McKenzie, the company’s artistic director, said in an interview. “I thought, we’re doing this anyway — why don’t we formalize it?”
Most years one work will be made for the main company and one for the A.B.T. Studio Company; another will be a work-in-process that can be workshopped with one of the two groups.
For its opening-night fall gala, on Oct. 17, Ballet Theater will present an all-female program, including a premiere by the tap dancer and choreographer Michelle Dorrance and Twyla Tharp’s 1986 “In the Upper Room.” The program will also feature the Studio Company performing “Le Jeune,” a 2017 work choreographed by Ms. Lovette, a principal at New York City Ballet.
The fall season will also include a new work by Jessica Lang, her third ballet for the company. Looking ahead to the 2018-19 season, new works will be made by Claudia Schreier, for the Studio Company, and Stefanie Batten Bland, for that group’s residency at Duke University in January of 2019.
“It’s important to level the playing field, if you will, but what’s paramount above and beyond that is, Where is the next voice?” Mr. McKenzie said. “I’m looking for somebody who can ignite the excitement of where we are in time. I just care about the work. And it turns out that the work that is catching my eye seems to be a higher percentage of women.”
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the second woman appointed to the United States Supreme Court, but she’s probably the first justice to become a full-fledged pop-cultural phenomenon. “RBG,” a loving and informative documentary portrait of Justice Ginsburg during her 85th year on earth and her 25th on the bench, is both evidence of this status and a partial explanation of how it came about.
Directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen, the film is a jaunty assemblage of interviews, public appearances and archival material, organized to illuminate its subject’s temperament and her accomplishments so far. Though it begins with audio snippets of Justice Ginsburg’s right-wing detractors — who see her as a “demon,” a “devil” and a threat to America — “RBG” takes a pointedly high road through recent political controversies. Its celebration of Justice Ginsburg’s record of progressive activism and jurisprudence is partisan but not especially polemical. The filmmakers share her convictions and assume that the audience will, too.
Which might be true, and not only because much of the audience is likely to consist of liberals. Before she was named to the federal bench by Jimmy Carter in 1980, the future justice had argued a handful of important sex-discrimination cases in front of the Supreme Court. What linked these cases — she won five out of six — was the theory that the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment should apply to women and could be used to remedy discrepancies in hiring, business practices and public policy.
The idea that women are equal citizens — that barring them from certain jobs and educational opportunities and treating them as the social inferiors of men are unfair — may not seem especially controversial now. “RBG” uses Justice Ginsburg’s own experiences to emphasize how different things were not so long ago. At Harvard Law School, she was one of nine women in a class of hundreds, and was asked by the dean (as all the women were) why she thought she deserved to take what should have been a man’s place.
The biographical part of “RBG” tells a story that is both typical and exceptional. It’s a reminder that the upward striving of first- and second-generation Jewish immigrants in the middle decades of the 20th century was accompanied by fervent political idealism. Justice Ginsburg’s career was marked by intense intellectual ambition and also by a determination to use the law as an instrument of change.
Several states and cities have ordered employers to stop asking about salary history.
Meanwhile, tales of workplace and classroom harassment have continued to pile up in the jazz world since early last year. The young trombonist Kalia Vandever posted an article on Medium in March attesting to her own experiences as an undergraduate at Juilliard and offering some ideas about what ought to be done. Ms. Vandever said that despite being promoted as a poster child for the school, she was one of only two women in Juilliard’s robust jazz program, and often felt stranded. Teachers frequently subjected both her body and her playing to special scrutiny, sometimes making explicitly sexual comments, she said.
“Looking back on my accounts of sexual harassment and misogyny, it’s difficult not to wish I had spoken up in the moment or confronted my peers or teachers directly after the misconduct, but I didn’t have the guidance, knowledge, nor confidence to say something at the time,” she wrote. “It shouldn’t be my responsibility — especially within the classroom — to say something.”
It’s this lack of support that the collective is aiming to confront — both by offering counsel and mentorship, and by codifying expectations for institutions.
We Have Voice’s efforts are not the only of their kind taking place in the jazz world. The Women in Jazz Organization, an advocacy group pushing for gender equity, was founded last year. And at schools like the Berklee College of Music, students and teachers have organized on behalf of survivors of sexual assault and harassment.
Looking broadly at the music industry, it is widely seen as lagging behind even Hollywood on gender equality, and it has no labor body comparable to the Screen Actors Guild — which released its own sexual harassment code of conduct in February — to battle for artists’ interests.
In jazz, power is not as centralized in the hands of corporations, which in turn employ pop producers and control entire creative supply chains. Rather, in the improvised-music business, the most important single entity is the musicians themselves. Beyond that, it is festivals and educational establishments.
We Have Voice hopes many more such institutions will align with its code of conduct.
“We’re not really doing this for the branding, or trying to be part of the one time that this happens in the mainstream,” said the vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Ganavya Doraiswamy, a collective member. “We’re really trying to do the groundwork and hold institutions accountable.”
The two women soon established a pattern to their column, and comic guidelines for the quintessential “hey ladies” email: It must have “a million exclamation points to show how excited you are,” said Ms. Markowitz. And “throw in a sentence about how excited you are just in case the exclamation points don’t do it,” said Ms. Moss.
It should include “some ‘friendly reminders,” written in a passive-aggressive tone, Ms. Moss said, plus a pointless inquiry, like “asking 26 people what dates in June are good for them.”
Through some kind of wedding-industrial-complex magic, she said, someone always owes money by the end of the email.
The authors “always thought a book would be fun,” Ms. Markowitz said, but didn’t formally begin planning one until 2016, around the same time that The Toast was shutting down. (Their final column for the site, “Take It to Slack,” was published June 30, 2016.) “Writing a book was a good way to keep the ladies around,” she said.
The book — which tells the story of one year in a female friend group entirely through their emails, off-thread text conversations about emails, and social media posts — was also a good way to “create a world where these women really are friends, and actually really do care about each other, and want to be near each other, and want to talk to each other,” said Ms. Moss. The characters vent, date and debrief, in addition to booking a destination bachelorette to South Portugal, which they inexplicably abbreviate as “SoPu.”
For Ms. Moss and Ms. Markowitz, friendship is the whole point. “There’s a little bit of an inner struggle” when one receives a “hey ladies” email, Ms. Markowitz said. You’re stuck between feeling “this is going to be a lot of work, and how much is this going to end up costing me” and gratitude for the relationship that landed you on the email chain in the first place. “You want to be a part of something and make your friend feel special,” she said.
He estimates that he has spent about a million rand, or $84,000, so far, believing that it will help level the gender playing field while raising Africa’s profile in the global art market, and its share of the $67 billion it generates.
Mr. Lutaaya knows what it means to fight through adversity. Abandoned by his parents, later a street child in Kampala, Uganda, he managed to get a scholarship to a university. In 2011 he won a residency at the Bag Factory in Johannesburg, which offered a studio and materials. He said he made the eight-day journey overland with a packet of cookies and a bottle of water. When the three-month Bag Factory residency ended, Mr. Lutaaya said he found part-time janitorial work, but soon also found himself, again, hustling to sleep indoors, making a loaf of bread last a week. He collected discarded newspapers and cut them into pieces for collages that he initially peddled for a few dollars.
A few years and breaks later, Mr. Lutaaya has grown into an outsize presence. The scraps and flecks of newsprint work like Impressionist brush strokes: up close it’s hard to see the image, but a few steps back you see poignant portraiture. Last December, at a sold-out solo show in Cape Town, one work went for 500,000 South African rand, about $40,000 — a soaring figure for any contemporary Africa-based artist not named William Kentridge.
Mr. Lutaaya’s premise is that success in the art world depends as much on business savvy as it does on creativity and technical skill. Women of color need more opportunities to learn how the business and society of art works — from galleries to agents, collectors and selection committees. It robs them of possibility, but it is a loss for the whole continent, he said. And as time goes on, they often get discouraged and abandon their efforts.
“They need to develop from within the system in a way to give them enough exposure to know what’s going on, to engage with the broader community, locally and globally,” Mr. Lutaaya said. “Once they do that, they became also great mentors for other young people they meet.”
Andrea Constand is the only woman among more than 50 accusers whose complaint against Mr. Cosby has resulted in a conviction. A jury found him guilty of three counts of aggravated indecent assault.
Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele asked that Mr. Cosby’s $ million bail be revoked, suggesting he had been convicted of a serious crime, owned a plane and could flee, prompting an angry outburst from Mr. Cosby, who shouted, “He doesn’t have a plane, you asshole.”
“Enough of that,” said Judge O’Neill who said he did not view Mr. Cosby as a flight risk and said he could be released on bail, but would have to surrender his passport and remain in his nearby home.
In recent years, Mr. Cosby, 80, had admitted to decades of philandering, and to giving quaaludes to women as part of an effort to have sex, smashing the image he had built as a moralizing public figure and the upstanding paterfamilias in the wildly popular 1980s and ’90s sitcom “The Cosby Show.” He did not testify in his own defense, avoiding a grilling about those admissions, but he and his lawyers have insisted that his encounter with Ms. Constand was part of a consensual affair, not an assault.
The verdict now marks the bottom of a fall as precipitous as any in show business history and leaves in limbo a large slice of American popular culture from Mr. Cosby’s six-decade career as a comedian and actor. For the last few years, his TV shows, films, and recorded stand-up performances, one-time broadcast staples, have largely been shunned and with the conviction, they are likely to remain so.
At his retrial in the same courthouse and before the same judge as last summer, a new defense team argued unsuccessfully that Ms. Constand, now 45, was a desperate “con artist” with financial problems who steadily worked her famous but lonely mark for a lucrative payday.
Credit Pool photo by Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
The prosecution countered that it was Mr. Cosby who had been a deceiver, hiding behind his amiable image as America’s Dad to prey on women that he first incapacitated with intoxicants. During closing arguments Tuesday, a special prosecutor, Kristen Gibbons Feden, had told the jury: “She is not the con. He is.”
The defense’s star witness was a veteran academic adviser at Temple, Mr. Cosby’s alma mater, who said Ms. Constand had confided in her in 2004 that she could make money by falsely claiming that she had been molested by a prominent person. Mr. Cosby paid Ms. Constand $3.38 million in 2006 as part of the confidential financial settlement of a lawsuit she had brought against him after prosecutors had originally declined to bring charges.
But Ms. Constand said she had never spoken with the adviser and prosecutors rebutted the characterization of Ms. Constand as a schemer. Perhaps most damaging to Mr. Cosby, they were able to introduce testimony from five other women who told jurors they believed they too had been drugged and sexually assaulted by Mr. Cosby in separate incidents in the 1980s. The powerful drumbeat of accounts allowed prosecutors to argue that Ms. Constand’s assault was part of a signature pattern of predatory behavior.
The case was the first high-profile trial of the #MeToo era. Candidates were required during jury selection to provide assurances that the accusations against scores of other famous men would not affect their judgment of Mr. Cosby. Mr. Cosby’s lawyers referred to the changed atmosphere in American society, warning it and the introduction of accounts from multiple other accusers risked denying Mr. Cosby a fair trial by distracting jurors’ attention. “Mob rule is not due process,” Kathleen Bliss, one of Mr. Cosby’s lawyers told the jury.
Then she spent much of her closing argument urging the jury to discount the accounts of the five supporting witnesses. One was a failed starlet who slept around, she suggested, another a publicity seeker. “Questioning an accuser is not shaming a victim,” she told the jury.
The remarks inflamed Ms. Feden, the prosecutor, who called the attacks on the women the same sort of filthy and shameful criticism that kept some victims of sexual assault from ever coming forward.
When Ms. Constand came forward to testify, she took the stand as something of a proxy for the other women, more than 50, who have accused Mr. Cosby of abuses, often with details remarkably similar to Ms. Constand’s account. A few of those women attended the trial.
Credit Tracie Van Auken/EPA, via Shutterstock
None of the other accusations had resulted in prosecution. In many of the cases, too much time had passed for criminal charges to be considered, so Ms. Constand’s case emerged as the only criminal test of Mr. Cosby’s guilt.
But Mr. Cosby is facing civil actions from several accusers, many of whom are suing him for defamation because, they say, he or his staff branded them as liars by dismissing their allegations as fabrications.
The suits have mostly been delayed, pending the outcome of the criminal trial and are likely to draw momentum from the guilty verdict.
The case largely turned on the credibility of Ms. Constand, who testified that in a visit in early 2004 to Mr. Cosby’s home near Philadelphia, when she was 30 and he was 66, Mr. Cosby gave her pills that left her immobile and drifting in and out of consciousness. He said he had only given her Benadryl.
Credit Tracie Van Auken/EPA, via Shutterstock
“I was kind of jolted awake and felt Mr. Cosby on the couch beside me, behind me, and my vagina was being penetrated quite forcefully, and I felt my breast being touched,” Ms. Constand said. “I was limp, and I could not fight him off.”
Adding weight to her accusations was the revelation that a decade earlier, in a deposition in Ms. Constand’s lawsuit against him, Mr. Cosby had admitted to having given women quaaludes in an effort to have sex with them.
But perhaps most damaging was the testimony by the five additional accusers, which took up several days of testimony. In Mr. Cosby’s first trial, last summer, only one other accuser had been allowed to add her voice to that of Ms. Constand’s. At the retrial, the accusers included the former model Janice Dickinson, who told jurors Mr. Cosby assaulted her in a Lake Tahoe hotel room in 1982, after giving her a pill to help with menstrual cramps. “Here was America’s Dad on top of me,” she told the courtroom, “a happily married man with five children, on top of me.”
The defense suggested in its cross-examination that Ms. Dickinson had made up the account and pointed to the fact that in her memoir she had recounted the meeting without making any mention of an assault. But Ms. Dickinson’s publisher testified that she had told her the rape account and it was only kept out of the book for legal reasons.
Another accuser, Chelan Lasha, told how Mr. Cosby invited her to his suite at the Las Vegas Hilton in 1986 when she was 17 to give her help with her modeling career. Mr. Cosby, she said, gave her a pill and liquor, and then assaulted her.
In court, Ms. Lasha, who was often in tears, called across the courtroom to the entertainer, who was sitting at the defense table.
“You remember,” she asked, “don’t you, Mr. Cosby?”
Credit Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters
As in the first trial, Mr. Cosby’s legal team insisted Ms. Constand was lying about a consensual, sexual relationship. But while his lawyers last summer had depicted Mr. Cosby as a flawed man, an unfaithful husband who shattered his fans’ illusions, but committed no crime, his lawyers this time focused on the financial struggles they said Ms. Constand was experiencing that led her to to extort money from a man who had been trying to help her with a career in broadcasting.
“You are going to be asking yourself during this trial, ‘What does she want from Bill Cosby?’ And you already know the answer: ‘Money, money and lots more money,’” his lead lawyer, Thomas A. Mesereau Jr., told the jurors as he opened his defense of Mr. Cosby. “She has a history of financial problems until she hits the jackpot with Bill Cosby.”
The defense emphasized inconsistencies in the version of events Ms. Constand had given the police, saying, for example, at one point that the assault had taken place in March, 2004, then later changing that January 2004.
Mr. Cosby’s lawyers cited her phone records to show she had stayed in touch with him after the encounter and they produced detailed travel itineraries and flight schedules in an effort to show that Mr. Cosby did not stay at his Philadelphia home during the period she said the assault occurred.
“He was lonely and troubled and he made a terrible mistake confiding in her what was going on in his life,” Mr. Mesereau said.
Under cross-examination, Ms. Constand explained the lapses in her accounts as innocent mistakes, and said her contacts with Mr. Cosby after the incident were mostly cursory, the unavoidable result of her job duties.
Mr. Steele told the jury that with the pills he gave her, Mr. Cosby took away Ms. Constand’s ability to consent, and that their later contacts were irrelevant.
When Ms. Constand’s mother called to confront Mr. Cosby about a year after the incident, the prosecution argued, the defendant’s apology, and his offer to pay for her schooling, therapy and a trip to Florida, were evidence he knew he had done something wrong.
Mr. Steels, the district attorney, also worked to rebut the defense claims. He said that Mr. Cosby, a member of Temple University’s board of directors and the university’s most famous alumnus, set his sights on Ms. Constand, an employee in the university’s athletic department who considered Mr. Cosby a mentor.
“This case is about trust,” Mr. Steele had told the jurors. “This case is about betrayal, and that betrayal leading to a sexual assault of a woman named Andrea Constand.”
“There seems to be something about having the word ‘girl’ in the title of a book that guarantees huge sales.”
The critic Jacqueline Rose noted this trend in a 2015 review of the thrillers “Gone Girl” and “The Girl on the Train” — as well as a fashion, she said, for breezy misogyny sold to women as entertainment.
The girls are mostly gone now. It seems they’ve been replaced, improbably perhaps, by mothers, if this vertiginous pile of memoirs and novels on my desk is any indication. There is a sudden flurry of fascination with my people (full disclosure: a small, surly child thrashes in her sleep just to the right of that pile), and I’m not yet persuaded it’s an entirely positive development.
But first, the books — radiantly specific dispatches from almost every corner of motherhood. There are memoirs of sudden pregnancy (“And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready,” by Meaghan O’Connell) and struggling to conceive (“An Excellent Choice: Panic and Joy on My Solo Path to Motherhood,” by Emma Brockes); accounts of postpartum depression (“Things That Helped,” by Jessica Friedmann) and postpartum euphoria (“The Motherhood Affidavits,” by Laura Jean Baker); novels about whether to have children (“Motherhood,” by Sheila Heti), novels about mothering someone else’s children (“That Kind of Mother,” by Rumaan Alam), even novels about killing children (“The Perfect Nanny,” by Leila Slimani, and “The Perfect Mother,” by Aimee Molloy — part of a genre grouped under the ghastly moniker “mom thrillers”).
And then there is Jacqueline Rose’s own new book, “Mothers: An Essay on Love and Cruelty,” a sort of Rosetta Stone for the moment that examines the particular mix of fascination and dread that mothers engender.
Rose is a calm and stylish writer whose rangy essays in the London Review of Books on violence and identity, #MeToo, the trial of Oscar Pistorius and other subjects have become indispensable reading during the current reckoning around power and sexuality. She has written at length about Sylvia Plath, Hannah Arendt and Marilyn Monroe, as well as several books on Zionism and the conflict in the Middle East. Her specialties are personalities and philosophies that attract (sometimes court) extreme idealization and revulsion. These larger-than-life figures bear our projections and our fears, she says, and allow us to maintain a fantasy of innocence in our own lives.
How appropriate, then, is this turn to motherhood — that site in the culture “where we lodge, or rather bury, the reality of our own conflicts, of what it means to be fully human,” Rose writes. “It is the ultimate scapegoat for our personal and political failings, for everything that is wrong with the world, which it becomes the task — unrealizable, of course — of mothers to repair.”
These aren’t original points; this scapegoat argument in particular is one that has been made about every minority group you can imagine (it’s also the premise of Toni Morrison’s superb “Playing in the Dark: Whiteness in the Literary Imagination”). But “Mothers” is a useful synthesis and loving engagement with many of the writers who have shaped our thinking on motherhood — Morrison, Simone de Beauvoir and Adrienne Rich, whose unsurpassed “Of Woman Born” (1976) is a template for Rose. “Mothers” follows the same arc, arguing for the radical potentialities in motherhood, how women’s initiation into the relentless, often invisible labor of caretaking produces not the solipsistic, bourgeois creature of myth but something close to the ideal citizen — more responsive to the community and naturally inclusive.
Mothers “are not in flight from the anguish of what it means to be human,” Rose writes. She quotes Julia Kristeva: “To be a mother, to give birth, is to welcome a foreigner, which makes mothering simply ‘the most intense form of contact with the strangeness of the one close to us and of ourselves.’”
Isn’t it pretty to think so? Recent books on motherhood, however, frequently and sometimes unwittingly, illustrate a different phenomenon: how motherhood dissolves the border of the self but shores up, often violently, the walls between classes of women.
“Some problems we share as women, some we do not,” Audre Lorde wrote in an essay addressed to white feminists in 1984. “You fear your children will grow up to join the patriarchy and testify against you, we fear our children will be dragged from a car and shot down in the street, and you will turn your backs upon the reasons they are dying.”
Rose acknowledges this issue: “Solidarity among mothers, across class and ethnic boundaries, is not something Western cultures seem in any hurry to promote.” But so many of these books (almost all of them are by white, middle-class women) seem wary of, if not outright disinterested in, more deeply engaging with how how race and class inflect the experience of motherhood. Thrillers and horror, the genres that serve as our cultural unconscious, are left to pick up the slack; “mom thrillers” so often hinge on the anxieties of child care and racial privilege.
These omissions are especially troubling because the rift between mothers is only growing. The fastest growing pay gap is between black women and white women. And research shows that regardless of class, black mothers and babies are more than twice as likely to die than their white counterparts — a gulf that has grown since slavery, and which researchers attribute to the lifelong stresses of enduring racism.
“Look at me,” the author of every new book on motherhood asks us. We should — and how could we not? Each testimony is valuable. But it’s with a strange pleasure that the reader will realize that so many of the taboos these writers hope to shatter — about the ambivalence of motherhood, for example — are, by now, familiar. The real work, the daring work, might be for these mothers to look at each other.
Follow Parul Sehgal on Twitter: @parul_sehgal.
Mothers: An Essay on Love and Cruelty
By Jacqueline Rose
237 pages. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $26.