October 25, 2014
Guest: Anthea Butler, Liz Plank, Tyler Coates, Soraya Chemaly, Armanda
Legros, Emily Martin, Dina Bakst, Arthur Caplan, Sandeep Jauhar, Teri
Agins, Julian Zelizer, Thuy Linh Tu, Robert Verdi
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: Plus, Monica Lewisky versus the
Internet. And remembering a re-thinker. But first, why 29-year-old
Brittany Maynard has decided she will die one week from today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS PERRY: Good morning, I`m Melissa Harris Perry. And we are going to
get to all of the stories I just mentioned in just a moment, but first,
four high school students remain hospitalized this morning after a deadly
school shooting in Marysville, Washington. Students could be seen fleeing
their classrooms after shooting yesterday at Marysville Pilchuk High
Police say a student opened fire inside the school`s cafeteria, killing one
young woman, and injuring four others before killing himself. Law
enforcement sources identified the shooter as freshman Jaylen Ray Fryberg.
Last week, this guy was popular. Just last week he was crowned homecoming
prince. The victims have not been identified yet and police are not saying
anything about a possible motive. Joining us now live from Marysville,
Washington, NBC News correspondent Hallie Jackson. Hallie, what is the
latest on the students` condition?
HALLIE JACKSON, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Here is what we know at the moment,
Melissa. Two young women are in critical condition at Providence Everett
Hospital. And at a different hospital, Harborview, a 15-year-old is also
in critical condition and a 14-year-old is in serious condition. We
understand this morning that those two boys are cousins of the suspected
shooter in this case. That`s according to their grandfather. Law
enforcement sources are identifying that shooter as Jaylen Fryberg. As you
described him, he was described by classmates as a popular student, on the
football team. He was an athlete and seemed to be, by most accounts, a
happy kid. At this point, there`s no official word from police on the
relationship between Fryberg and the young woman who was killed yesterday.
At Marysville Pilchuk High School, classes there will be canceled all next
week. Police are calling this an active investigation. Even still as they
try to piece together what exactly happened in the school`s cafeteria
yesterday just after 10:30 in the morning, that`s when students described
seeing their classmate open fire, looking victims in the eye. Some
chilling descriptions of what exactly happened inside that high school.
The community is beginning what will be, of course, a long and difficult
grieving process. But already, Melissa, we`re seeing members of the
community come together. A candlelight vigil at a local church here in
Marysville drew more than 1,000 people. Emotional service. People
hugging. People crying. Praying. And thinking about the families whose
lives will be forever changed because of this. Melissa?
HARRIS PERRY: In Marysville, Washington, Hallie Jackson. Thank you for
We`re going to turn now to the story of Brittany Maynard. Just one week
from today, if all goes according to her plan, 29-year-old Brittany Maynard
will drink a glass of water filled with a lethal dose of crushed doctor-
prescribed pills and drift off into a sleep from which she will never wake.
Brittany`s profoundly personal and private decision to end her own life
after being diagnosed with a terminal, quickly advancing illness made the
cover of this week`s "People" magazine and it has become the subject of
international interest and discussion after she shared her story in this
video posted online two weeks ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRITTANY MAYNARD: 70 days post-op, I went in for another MRI and was told
I had had a great change. They were looking and saying it looks like grade
four, which is the worst and most aggressive form of brain cancer. It`s
called the glioblastoma. So, that was a major shock to my system and the
system of my family. Because it went from having potentially years of time
to being told I had like six months.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS PERRY: Doctors have told Brittany that if the cancer is allowed to
run its course, the decline before her death will include a series of
unrelenting seizures, headaches, nausea, vomiting, pressure in her brain
and the loss of all of her bodily functions, including moving, even
thinking. Instead on November 1st, the day Brittany has decided to die,
she`s planning for the end of her life to come on the terms that she has
chosen for herself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYNARD: I plan to be surrounded by my immediate family, which is my
husband and my mother and my stepfather and my best friend, who is also a
physician. And probably not much more people. And I will die upstairs in
my bedroom that I share with my husband with my mother and my husband by my
side and pass peacefully with some music that I like in the background.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS PERRY: Brittany has said that in addition to a peaceful death,
having access to the lethal prescription has also given her peace in her
final days of life.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYNARD: I can`t even tell you the amount of relief that it provides me to
know that I don`t have to die the way that it has been described to me that
my brain tumor would take me on its own.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS PERRY: Although she describes this as a private decision, following
her diagnosis, Brittany has devoted much of this year to advocating
publicly for others in her situation to have legal access to the same
relief. She qualified for physician-assisted suicide after relocating to
Oregon where the practice is permitted under the state`s Death with Dignity
Act. Now, Oregon is one of five states, including Montana, New Mexico,
Vermont and Washington that have legalized the option to end one`s own life
with the help of a doctor. Some other states have introduced similar
legislation and Brittany has teamed with advocacy organization Compassion
and Choices and launched the Brittany Maynard Fund to push for those bills
to be enacted into law.
Now the particular circumstances of Brittany`s story, a vibrant, young
woman, a newlywed whose life feels like it`s just beginning, compelled by
illness to make a decision about how it will end has gone renewed attention
and brought a new audience to an old and ongoing debate. As bioethicist
Arthur Caplan wrote for NBC News earlier this month, "How we die has been
at issue mainly fought out by the elderly, some patient advocacy groups for
the severely ill, disability organizations, prolife groups, religious
organizations and health care providers. Most of the combatants are middle
aged or older. A whole new generation is now looking at Brittany and
wondering why their state does not permit physicians to prescribe lethal
doses of drugs to the dying.
For more than 20 years, the majority of Americans have not only wondered
but agreed that a physician should be allowed to legally and painlessly end
the life of a patient with an incurable fatal disease. And that consensus
has been tested periodically by events that have forced us all to consider
the broader political implications of personal end-of-life questions. In
2009, Sarah Palin attacked Obamacare - fears of government overreach into
end of life decisions by invoking the mythical death panel claim. In
January, dispute in Texas over whether to keep a pregnant, but brain dead
woman alive, on life support, was ended when a judge ordered a hospital to
comply with her family`s wishes to have her removed from the machines that
were keeping her alive. And recently, right here on this program, Dr.
Ezekiel Emanuel talked about his desire to avoid the onset of physical and
mental disability that can accompany old age by dying at age 75.
But that`s fundamental question under what circumstances should a person be
empowered to make the decision to die? Also, it raises very different
concerns about bodily autonomy than those we`ve been accustomed to
considering in our public and political consciousness. We have been far
more comfortable grappling for instincts with the reproductive rights
debate and fraught personal and policy questions that it raises about the
beginning of life. But now, Brittany Maynard has compelled us, once again,
to collectively consider where we stand when a decision needs to be made
about the end of a life.
Joining me now, Anthea Butler, professor of religious studies and graduate
chair of religion at the University of Pennsylvania. Sandeep Jauhar who is
director of the Heart Failure Problem at Long Island Jewish Medical Center
and author of "Doctored: the Dillusionment of an American Physician." And
Arthur Caplan, director of medical ethics at New York University`s Langone
Medical Center. Thank you all for being here.
Let me start with the "Death with Dignity Laws." I know for some who are
not embroiled in this debate, for whom Brittany Maynard is just bringing it
out, the question might be, why would one need a law? Can`t you - I mean
maybe it`s illegal to take one`s own life but it can actually be practiced.
Why isn`t everyone just already free to take their own life whenever they
are prepared to do so?
ARTHUR CAPLAN, DIR., OF MEDICAL ETHICS, NYU LANGONE: Well, there are
states that make assistance in dying illegal. And so these laws turn that
around. Some states have actually tried to ban suicide, but, obviously,
impossible to do. So, I think the argument here is the way people do end
their lives on their own is violent, messy and sometimes doesn`t work,
leaving them impaired, leaving them with severe brain damage if they shoot
themselves or they get found trying in a garage with gas, not taking their
HARRIS PERRY: And they have to do it alone. But you can`t - if you do it
in the bed, as Brittany was talking about, with your family around you,
then they are potentially implicated as a criminal act.
CAPLAN: As assisting, correct. So, you have a situation here where people
say, look, you`re just giving the means to them. You still have to take
the pills. You still make the decision. It`s not a Jack Kevorkian style
thing where I help kill you by turning the switch. You have to get the
medicine. You have it on your bedside, you decide whether to swallow it or
not. It`s still your action, but now it`s, if you will, it`s more humane,
it has got more dignity.
HARRIS PERRY: So, as of - This year has been a tough year around the
question of death and laws for me because I have had so many people pass so
close to one another. Hospice was an extremely important part of the
passing of my beloved brother-in-law, the question of how people make that
transition. But hospice, the kind of palliative care presumptions, art
about ending life prematurely and so I`ve struggled as I`ve watched the
Brittany Maynard`s public debate about how I`m the one here to talk about
the valuable things that hospice does to allow you to go ahead and let go
versus making this active decision to come to an end.
SANDEEP JAUHAR, DIR., HEART FAILURE PROGRAM, ULIJMC: Yeah. I mean I think
hospice is generally well regarded among patients and families who have
experienced it. So I think it`s a very viable alternative. But, you know,
in my experience as a cardiologist, I`ve seen patients who have been very
sick, but not necessarily suffering from pain at that precise moment. So,
hospice is really for people who are really in the throes of pain, you
know, and nearing the end of life. In Brittany`s case, she doesn`t want to
go through that horrible, terminal phase of her illness. She wants to have
the right to make the decision to end her life before she goes through
that. So, you know, I agree with what Dr. Caplan said. That, you know, it
seems almost oxymoronic to talk about a safe suicide. But there we have
plenty of examples where people try to end their lives and they don`t
succeed and they go through a very violent and painful course. So, and we
see that with executions, as we`ve seen fairly recently. So I think it`s -
the term death with dignity really applies here. Because people have the
right to, in my view, end their lives in a way that is commensurate with
HARRIS PERRY: So Anthea, I want to talk a little bit about this notion of
commensurate with their values. I mean I`ve really legitimately been
struggling around this, and was so surprised to read a piece by Desmond
Tutu about what he saw as the immorality of how Nelson Mandela was allowed
to pass. I just - I hadn`t known much about it. In the end, Desmond Tutu
writes his piece and it`s sort of about don`t let me linger. We let our
beloved Mandela linger too long. I was - honestly, I was taken aback, in
part because I tend to think of many religious world views, but
particularly a Christian world view saying that there is -- not only is
there value in suffering but there is redemptive value in undeserved
suffering. That in fact that is kind of a core religious principle for
ANTHEA BUTLER, PROFESSOR OF RELIGIOUS STUDIES, UPENN: Yeah. I think it
depends on what branch of Christianity you`re talking about. For Desmontd
Tutu, he`s an Episcopalian. He is thinking, this is, you know, this is
immoral. I don`t want to live this way, this is more about the family
maybe trying to drag it on or people trying to figure out what they would
do and think about Catholics who would say, you know, you have a right to
life. You don`t want to end life in a way that would not be in keeping
with what God would want. You know, so there`s that part of the redemptive
suffering. And another religions have different kinds of things. You
think about Hinduism. You could say, you know, this separates you from
your karma and the dharma that you`re doing here on earth. So, you don`t
want to do that. I think in this particular instance, we have to think
about two things. One is, what are the desires of that person? What - how
do they see their worldview, vis-a-vis some other world views? And then I
think one of the things that`s going on with Brittany Murphy (ph) right
now, is that this is going to be a case, sort of like the Terry Schiavo
one, where you have people on the religious side fighting to say, this is
wrong and then other people saying, this is her right to take her life.
HARRIS PERRY: When we come back, I want to come straight to that. It is
Brittany Maynard as opposed to Brittany Murphy. But .
BUTLER: I`m sorry.
No: No, it`s just - I know. It gets tough in these conversations. But
that`s part of what I want us to do then. So to expand a little bit beyond
her and to think about the fact that so few of us ever want to have these
conversations at all. And sort of how that leaves both us as well as our
communities when we don`t have those conversations at all.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYNARD: I hope to enjoy however many days I have left on this earth and
spend as much of it outside as I can, surrounded by those I love. I hope
to pass in peace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS PERRY: That was 29-year old Brittany Maynard speaking in a viral
video about choosing to end her life after being diagnosed earlier this
year with the terminal illness. Since deciding to publicize her story,
Brittany has been subject to criticism from opponents of policies like the
Oregon law that is allowing her to legally end her life. One of the most
vocal of those critics, Dr. Ira Byock, a palliative care physician, who`s
been outspoken in his opposition to Brittany`s choice.
This week, in a radio interview on the Diane Rehm Show, Dr. Byock said one
of the things I disagree with is that Brittany Maynard has just said again
that she thinks this is her personal choice, but physician-assisted suicide
is not a personal act. It`s a social act. Physicians aren`t personal.
We`re trained by society. We`re licensed by society. We`re certified by
board that represents society and we`re paid by society. So, when a
physician writs a lethal prescription it`s a social act.
Now, I`m not exactly sure where I fall on this question. But I do think I
agree with the physician in this case that it certainly isn`t entirely
personal. The question of how we think about life and the decisions we
have to make about it are public.
CAPLAN: No doubt about it. And we have these laws in place because people
went to the ballot box and said we see it as a person`s right to gain
access to lethal pills, should they choose. But remember .
HARRIS PERRY: Yep. I want to - just for folks who may not know, the
Oregon law, in order to qualify for the Death with Dignity Act within
Oregon, you have to be at least 18. You have to be capable of making the
decision for yourself. You have to be an Oregon resident and you have to
be terminally ill, with a diagnosis of being within six months.
CAPLAN: Two doctors have to confirm it. By the way, you also have to
report it to the police. So, it`s very social in that sense as a
supervised thing. Also, this. Oregon has had that law around for more
than a decade. We haven`t seen the slippery slope, we haven`t seen people
rushed off to the hereafter. I am even going to go so far as to say, I was
an early critic, like Ira Byock, but I`ve changed my view, because I think
it hasn`t been abused. And so, we have Washington State and Oregon, with a
lot of experience with this. We haven`t gone down the slippery slope to
rushing off people who are poor or people getting coerced.
HARRIS PERRY: So, you just said right there, as you said it, I just --
that is the thing, I guess, that most gives me the feelings. I keep
thinking every time I hear the conversation about the suffering is the
reason I need it to end. Although I understand it deeply, personally, I
worry about any argument that says a life that is full of suffering and
pain and agony is a life not worth living because that kind of pain and
agony and likely early death is not evenly distributed in the population.
It is likely to say something specifically about communities that we may be
most engaged with.
BUTLER: Exactly. And I was just thinking, Brittany has the means to be
able to do this. She has privilege to be able to do this. She has money.
She has insurance. She has all this.
HARRIS PERRY: Right.
BUTLER: What about the person who doesn`t have it? And is, you know,
suffering the same way. I was thinking this week, I just saw a film at the
conference - I was out at Columbia, about African American woman who was
dying of AIDS, and she was in a nursing home, and she just was in horrible
shape. But nobody had offered her hospice, no one had offered her
palliative care. And so, that thing that Brittany is getting to do, a lot
of people don`t get to do in this country.
HARRIS PERRY: But part of her claim, though, I think would be - part of
why she`s using these final days not just for her personal use, but as an
activist is because she`s trying to expand it. And, you know, again, it`s
tough, because you know, you talk about Brittany, which may be once -
decisions, but I do wonder, like particularly as physicians who were
thinking through this, is there a point at which physicians are either
keeping, because of their own ego saying you`ve got to stay alive, because
it is important to me that I be able to preserve life when, in fact, we may
be at a place where it`s time to say let me help you to make the
JAUHAR: I mean, you know, the way she`s going about this, I think has
really touched a nerve. Because it just does - it seems so brave. You
know, and it just seems like she wants to infuse that this last phase of
her life with purpose and meaning. So, I think that`s -- and also because
she`s so young. But, you know, I don`t see - Physicians don`t want to talk
about the end of life. That is a fact. And because we feel so impotent at
this terminal phase. So, you know, hospice is one option. But it doesn`t
necessarily - it`s not necessarily something that a lot of suffering
patients get to experience, because, you know, how do you get into hospice?
You know, you need to have a physician who advocates for you and makes the
effort to enlist those resources that are available. But a lot of patients
- and I`ve had patients -- I had a patient recently who has- who had severe
end stage heart failure and developed a jaw cancer and the cancer was
eating away at his bones and he was suffering so much. And it took forever
to get him into hospice.
HARRIS PERRY: Yeah. I`m thinking of Anthea just said about the health
care access and part of what President Obama used to say often in the ACA
fight was, that his mom in her final days spent all of her time filling out
insurance forms instead of doing whatever else it was.
Still to come this morning, what Monica Lewinsky is doing with her new
Twitter account and the importance of Oscar de la Renta?
Stay with us. We have a little bit more on this when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYNARD: Before I pass I`m hoping to make it to the Grand Canyon, because
I`ve never been.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS PERRY: Well, Brittany made it to the Grand Canyon. That final wish
has, in fact, come true. Yesterday, "People" magazine reported that
Brittany and her family made that trip to the Grand Canyon earlier this
week. Apparently she also suffered from some of the most painful and
debilitating seizures afterward. That said, we took a look at Pew polling
to see the percentage of people who were just thinking about what their own
wishes are, right? So, here`s Brittany really thinking very carefully
about what she wants. Of all,37 percent giving it a great deal of thought
and even for the group of people over 75, not even a full half of them
having given a lot of thought to end-of-life wishes. How do we get folks,
whatever else we think about, physician-assisted suicide, to have that
CAPLAN: So, I think this is a crucial conversation. Some people are
afraid to write it out on paper because, you know, they think it`s going to
happen. We don`t get .
HARRIS PERRY: Well, you are going to die.
CAPLAN: I understand, but they think it`s going to happen sooner if they
do it. It`s a magical thinking. The key thing to do, I`ll tell you, that
number one thing to do, pick a decision maker. Let them know you`ve picked
them. Have a backup decision maker. Because when people are very, very
ill, documents don`t count. Family counts. Or your friends or your
partners or whoever is there. So, if you can make it clear who speaks for
you, you can take care of the end of your days a little bit better. I
think the other key thing in getting this conversation going -- I`ll turn
toward religion here in a second, is our religious leaders don`t bring it
up. Think about the last time you went to church, or synagogue or
somewhere and they had a discussion of living wills, advanced directives or
HARRIS PERRY: Right.
JAUHAR: The downside of having someone make the decision for you is that
they substitute their own judgments.
HARRIS PERRY: Yeah.
JAUHAR: And so .
CAPLAN: You want to have that conversation so they know what you want.
JAUHAR: I know but I`ve seen so many cases where .
CAPLAN: Where they override?
JAUHAR: A son or a daughter overrides the wishes of the parent. And, you
know, not being a religious person myself, I find it fairly arrogant for
people to look at suffering as having this sort of redemptive quality.
There are types of suffering, physical suffering especially that no one
should have to go through.
CAPLAN: People say to me sometimes --
JAUHAR: Person has a right to not go through that.
CAPLAN: I have to suffer for my sins.
HARRIS PERRY: But even that question - right, I think there`s a political,
legal question. And then there`s a question about - and I - don`t mean to
adjudicate whether or not like my religious beliefs or someone else`s
should be substituted but only that it becomes a part of a discourse about
whether or not lives that are full of suffering are lives worth living.
And just that we have to be careful about that at the same time.
CAPLAN: Well, make a practical suggestion. Thanksgiving is coming. And
to get at this issue of not doing what you want, have the discussion with
all your family there so that everybody knows what you wanted.
HARRIS PERRY: And do it before you start drinking. Anthea will be back in
our next hour. Thank you to Dr. Sandeep Jauhar and to Arthur Caplan. Up
next, why this week we all thought back to what first lady Laura Bush was
wearing one December night way back in 2006.
HARRIS PERRY: A private funeral service will be held Monday November 3rd
here in New York City for famed fashion designer Oscar de la Renta, who
passed this past Monday following a long battle with cancer. For decades,
de la Renta`s work had been a staple in the wardrobes of Hollywood
celebrities and the nation`s first ladies. The Dominican born de la Renta
designed for nearly every first lady since Jackie Kennedy.
The designer`s work was so popular, it even once forced a first lady to
make an executive fashion decision. In December 2006, then first lady
Laura Bush hosted attendees of that year`s Kennedy Center honors at a White
House reception before the main event. She wore an $8,500 de la Renta
dress. And you can see it here in this White House greetings card. Bu it
turns out, that the first lady was not the only one who said yes to that
particular dress. That night, to the first lady`s surprise, not one, not
two, but three of the attendees wore the exact same dress. Now, Mrs. Bush
took it in stride, even laughing about it with her husband. But the first
lady was left with a classic fashion conundrum. To change or not to
change? The ever graceful hostess, and having the advantage of her closet
being just up the stairs, the first lady changed before the show. When she
arrived at the Kennedy Center she was clad in a shimmering black dress so
that none of her guests had to worry about who wore it better.
Of course, the whole thing just has me thinking, has it ever once been a
news story when more than one guy at the big party is wearing the same tux?
Has any president hustled to change his bow tie when he learned that two or
three of the guests have also chosen black silk? When we come back, Oscar
de la Renta, first lady fashion and feminism.
HARRIS PERRY: One of the legacies Oscar de la Renta leaves behind is that
his fashion shows tended to run on time, that`s actually a rarity in the
fashion world. Just another way the designer icon stood out. De la Renta
passed away this week after a long struggle with cancer. At 82 years old
the beloved celebrity designer was enjoying actually one of the best years
of his storied career. For more than five decades, the fashion pioneer
celebrated the lives of women with elegant designs that graced nearly every
major star of the day. Eventually, he became a star in his own right and
some of his most valued clients were America`s first ladies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBIN GIVHAN, FASHION CRITIC, WASHINGTON POST: I think for first ladies,
he was able to really bridge this divide between, you know, the private
woman who has her own sense of fashion, her own sense of aesthetics and how
she wants to dress and the public woman who had to kind of appease a
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS PERRY: As he designed for our nation`s first ladies, de la Renta
became part of our nation`s political story, part of President John F.
Kennedy`s aristocratic image stemmed from his glamorous wife, Jacqueline,
who spoke French and was adorned in de la Renta gowns. The first lady`s
elegant sophistication allowed Americans to envision the regal comparison
of Kennedy`s White House to Arthur in Camelot. Camelot is not what
Rosalynn Carter hoped to evoke when she arrived at her husband`s 1977
inauguration in a dress she had worn publicly not just once but twice
before. Hers was a message of humble modesty that framed her husband`s
approach to the presidency. As a former actress, with an enviable flare
for the dramatic, Nancy Reagan was frequently dressed by de la Renta. As a
result, she endured criticism for being extravagant during an economic
recession. Fully aware of the barbs, first lady Regan countered, "What
would have happened if I had stopped borrowing dresses and had started
wearing only the clothes that I could actually afford to buy? Before long
instead of calling me extravagant, the press would have started referring
to me as dowdy and frumpy."
So, precisely, the words often used to describe Hillary Clinton`s first
lady fashion choices. Now, she knew that her clothes were not just about
her. In Rodham Clinton`s memoir "Living History," she writes, "A first
lady`s appearance matters. I was no longer representing only myself, I was
asking the American people to let me represent them in a role that conveyed
everything from glamour to motherly comfort. De la Renta frequently
dressed Clinton, including to make a distinct political statement in a 1998
on the cover of "Vogue" magazine, adorned in a De la Renta gown, Clinton`s
cover photo depicted the first lady thriving amid political fallout after
President Clinton`s affair with Monica Lewinsky. And de la Renta comes up
in a telling conversation between Clinton and her husband about the meaning
fashion choices have for first ladies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON: We met Oscar de la Renta in December of 1993 when we
hosted the annual reception for the Kennedy Center honorees. And I had
bought a dress off the rack. It happened to be one of the Oscar de la
Renta dresses for sale in that way. So he and his wonderful wife, Annette,
go through the receiving line. And he takes my hand and he goes, is that
HILLARY CLINTON: And he said, oh, it`s wonderful. I`m so delighted.
BILL CLINTON: It was amusing to me, you know. Because I`ve never had
anybody go through a line and say is that my suit?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS PERRY: De la Renta has been celebrated for five decades of
designing glamorous gowns for the nation`s first ladies. And in helping
shape our first ladies style, he has spent five decades helping shape our
Joining me today to discuss the legacy of Oscar de la Renta and the impact
on fashion and first ladies and politics, are Teri Agins, who is a fashion
writer and author of "Hijacking the Runway," Robert Verdi, celebrity
stylist and a former host of E!`s "A Fashion Police." Julian Zelizer who
is Princeton professor and the author of "The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon
Johnson, Congress and the Battle for the Great Society" and Thuy Linh Tu,
who is associate professor of social and cultural analysts at NYU. She is
currently writing a new book called "Skin and Masks" about how cosmetics
industry shapes our ideas about race, health and beauty.
Did Oscar de la Renta think of dressing the first ladies as solely a
fashion choice or also as a political one?
ROBERT VERDI, CELEBRITY STYLIST: I think it`s a combination, but I don`t -
- I think it`s more of a business choice than .
HARRIS PERRY: Oh, that`s interesting.
VERDI: There`s great commerce underneath dressing anybody who is a public
figure. So, I think that that`s always taken into consideration and
certainly the first ladies are global figures. They`re not just national
figures. I think that when you`re on a global stage, sales increase all
over the world.
HARRIS PERRY: And yet I wonder if dressing like a first lady -- so in this
moment, with First Lady Michelle Obama, there is a certain cache to
dressing like a first lady. But there hasn`t been for a long time. I`m
not sure that people thought of it as aspirational to look like Laura Bush,
for example. And I wonder - you know, as you write about hijacking the
runways and celebrities take it from designers. If there`s something here
about -- what would it mean if it was aspirational to be like a political
TERI AGINS, AUTHOR, "HIJACKING THE RUNWAY": Well, I think that Michelle
Obama, the one thing that she really did was that she made fashion super
accessible for everybody.
HARRIS PERRY: J. Crew.
AGINS: Yeah, hi, low. Target, you know, and she really showed women that
you could, you know, show your arms and, you know, wear cardigan sweaters.
I mean this was something that first ladies didn`t do. So, I mean, I
really think that she brought -- that she really made fashion accessible
for a lot of women. And they started to emulate her. And that`s why she
became probably the biggest fashion role model that we`ve had in the White
HARRIS PERRY: Certainly at least since Jackie Kennedy. And yet, so I want
to stay on Michelle Obama for a minute as first lady. In part because I
wondered the extent, to which she becomes a Rorschach test. So, you talk
about bearing your arms and wearing the cardigans. I want to show this
picture of the first lady on vacation in the Grand Canyon with her family.
HARRIS PERRY: Wearing shorts. And what you see when you see that picture.
Isn`t it, in part - Julian, I know it seems odd to go to you on this one,
but isn`t it, in part, a political test, one of this - what you think you
see when you see the first lady in a pair of shorts for the Grand Canyon?
JULIAN ZELIZER, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Absolutely. I mean part of it is
about the fashion, part of it is about the media. So, a lot of those
pictures now are being taken not just by established media, but all sorts
of cameras are going off. So, I think fashion is changing for the first
lady not just because of Michelle Obama, but, you know, how she`s captured
on vacation. I must say, Eleanor Roosevelt was also famous. She hated
HARRIS PERRY: Right.
ZELIZER: And she didn`t care about it. And she wore what she wanted to
wear. It was a big deal at the time. She didn`t act like a first lady in
that respect. And she was criticized for it. Fashion designers were upset
with her. But she wanted to make a statement that that was not her
HARRIS PERRY: She acted much more like a president than like a first lady
in many ways, right, which was part of what leaves her with a different
kind of legacy. I want to - one more Michelle Obama as first lady for a
moment. Because she went to the first -- in 2009, right after the
inauguration, she goes to the first joint session of Congress sleeveless.
Maureen Dowd writes - and I`m interested what you think about this.
Maureen Dowd writes, "Let`s face it. The only bracing symbol of American
strength right now is the image of Michelle Obama`s sculpted biceps. Her
husband urges bold action, but it is Michelle who looks as though she could
easily wind up and punch out Rush Limbaugh, Bernie Madoff and all the
corporate creeps who ripped off America."
So that`s all again, that`s way back, March of 2009. I just - so what do
you think - I mean clearly, Maureen Dowd seeing someone who could like
muscle up for America.
THUY LINH TU, ASSOC. PROF., NYU: Sure, of course. And, you know, the
thing about Michelle Obama`s arms is everybody talks about it. And they`re
fantastic, right? They`re actually her husband`s secret weapon, right?
But they also say something about her femininity that people are not that
comfortable with, right? In the way that Hillary Rodham Clinton wears the
pant suit, right, Michelle Obama has got her arms and we`re always a little
bit uncomfortable with a strong woman. And, you know, that`s why her arms
are so, so widely commented upon.
HARRIS PERRY: And for me, that intersection also feels racialized. So
there`s the gender component but the other piece of it is like she can`t
actually punch out Rush Limbaugh and Bernie Madoff and like that idea that
she is the muscle feels both to me like a particular thing that that`s
doing to the president as well as like an elevation of like the black woman
is almost too much. She and Oscar de la Renta also did not get along.
VERDI: That was also consistent. Hillary Rodham Clinton was also the
muscle in the White House. I mean she didn`t bare her arms. I mean
separately as a sort of a fashion issue, I think all women that I`ve dealt
with and spoken to have an insecurity about their arms. It`s a really
delicate issue that women face. I don`t know where it stems from. But
it`s consistent. So it`s kind of interesting that Michelle doesn`t have
that issue. Because she`s an outlier now in that .
HARRIS PERRY: I also wonder - because even when we talk about the sort of
- also about Sarah Palin, who brought in - also a very different way of
thinking about fashion. You know, we`re talking about the first ladies.
She was actually running for the vice presidency and doing so in high heels
and in pencil skirts and there was a lot of critique that she had spent too
much money, you know, on her fashion. But what - again, it`s sort of the
Nancy Reagan point. What were her other choices?
VERDI: She also was constructed. I mean she clearly was plucked out of
nowhere and then all of a sudden.
HARRIS PERRY: Alaska is somewhere.
VERDI: No, I didn`t mean that kind of like -- it wasn`t a slam on Alaska.
But she was plucked out of, you know, anonymity to the rest of the world.
Ana all of a sudden she is on a global stage. And so people, do judge you
- you know there`s an imagery issue. We are always looking at images.
When you - I mean, politics is a little different because people do have a
voice. They are speaking to us on a daily or maybe less frequent basis.
But they do connect with us in that way. Celebrities conversely don`t.
We`re constantly judging them based on a series of images we see of them.
But with Sarah Palin, all of a sudden, she`s plucked out of .
HARRIS PERRY: And she has to give us something.
VERDI: She has to give us something.
HARRIS PERRY: Stick with us as we go to break and the discussion about the
intersection of politics and fashion. I can`t help but to play for you
this moment from the YouTube debate in the 2008 Democratic primary.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
Um: I would like for each of you to look at the candidate to your left and
tell the audience one thing you like and one thing you dislike about that
JOHN EDWARDS: I admire what Senator Clinton has done for America, what her
husband did for America. Not sure about that coat.
HARRIS PERRY: Back in 2010, veteran political consultant Donna Brazil
launched a great little column in Oprah`s magazine, Brazil`s first piece
featured "Rules to Live By." Number five, wear comfortable shoes. Men
don`t wear high heels and they don`t make allowances for women who do.
Towering down the quarters of power in beautiful but crippling stilettos
telegraphs your preference for style over substance. That was hard for me
to read. I have a strong preference for high heels, in part because I am a
short woman. But I wonder, is that us subjecting ourselves to a beauty
myth and a fashion myth that actually keeps us out of power?
LINH TU: Well, I think to a certain extent, I agree. You don`t want to be
tripping down the hallway. It doesn`t make you look very professional or
together. On the other hand I think there`s a damned if you do, and damned
if you don`t situation here. You know, you have to look good, right? You
have to look the part. There`s only a few men -- and I count Mark
Zuckerberg among them -- who can show up to work in a t-shirt and
(INAUDIBLE). The rest of us have to put a little effort into it and to
tell women that, you know, they don`t is itself a myth. Right?
HARRIS PERRY: And yet that little bit of effort, you know, we work very
hard on this show to make sure that we have lots of women at the table. It
actually takes more time for our guests to get ready. It`s a production
issue to put more women - the same thing is true as a matter of politics.
You`re running for office, you have a very tight schedule. As a woman, you
have to make four changes. Because you can`t just take off the tie. You
have to stop for the makeup. I mean literally, is fashion a thing that
keeps women from being able to assume the highest levels of power?
ZELIZER: My guess is that, isn`t the major factor .
ZELIZER: There`s other parts of sexism.
HARRIS PERRY: But it`s not irrelevant, right?
ZELIZER: It`s probably relevant, but it can be overcome. You know, and
they are sitting like - Margaret Thatcher famously used her purse as a prop
and basically would jab people with it. And there was a term for it to
symbolize her not being happy with you. And so, there are ways to turn
fashion in your favor. But I`m sure it is part of a logistical puzzle.
And it certainly is a puzzle that they have to deal with in terms of what
they look like, what`s accepted and what`s not whereas male politicians,
other than John Edwards and his haircut .
ZELIZER: . don`t have to deal with it.
HARRIS PERRY: No, I also wonder about this social collective aspect of it,
so we were sort of looking, you know, going through the beauty myth and she
makes a claim that Twiggy and Audrey Hepburn and the little black dress
show up at exactly the moment in American history when women have the pill,
greater access to higher education, greater access to the workplace, so
that suddenly we should be thinking about our jobs we are thinking about
our thighs. Because the fashion narrative becomes get as tiny as possible.
Is fashion inherently anti-feminist?
ZELIZER: I don`t think it is.
AGINS: No, I don`t think it is. But the thing is, we were talking about
this earlier about the whole idea you have got over the gay designers. And
the gay designers.
HARRIS PERRY: Gay men.
AGINS: Gay men. And they want us to look a certain way. I mean their
idealized sense of a woman is androgynous, flat chested.
HARRIS PERRY: Well, it does depend. I mean there`s also a gay male
aesthetic in which women are extremely almost overtly .
AGINS: But in fashion it`s .
HARRIS PERRY: In fashion ...
AGINS: It is androgynous.
VERDI: Looks better on this sort of .
HARRIS PERRY: On a hanger?
AGINS: On a hanger. Yes.
VERDI: Yeah, essentially.
When you know how .
HARRIS PERRY: But then doesn`t that - so, but then does have a political
implication, right? So it`s been - I mean I think about it relative to
Sarah Palin. I don`t agree with her politics, per se. But I did think it
was fascinating that a woman with a .
HARRIS PERRY: Yeah, I`ve got a woman with a young family wearing high
heels would feel that she could run for office at that level.
LINH TU: Sure. And, you know, I agree with you to a certain extent. But
there`s something a little bit false about the Sarah Palin as like earth
mother, you know, wearing mom jeans and t-shirt, right? And it`s a kind of
false populism of norm core, right? You know, that`s the biggest thing in
fashion right now, is like dressing normally. But we`ve all been dressing
normally. You know, it`s the elite have been wearing these $12,000
dresses. Now, when the elite don`t -- when Mark Zuckerberg is wearing his
t-shirt, you know, we`re actually hiding the fact that there`s such
inequalities rather than showing them.
HARRIS PERRY: Right, right. There`s something - there`s something about
it that feels masking.
VERDI: I think that`s a byproduct of credit. You know people can now
afford to be people who they`re not. So, fashion used to tell an honest
story about who you were, you know on a Sunday - on any given Sunday in
anywhere USA. You would find that church filled with girls who are wearing
Sunday clothes and guys were wearing Sunday clothes and then there were
other girls who were wearing different clothes in the same church every
Sunday, those girls were the daughters of merchants, they were the
daughters of doctors, of lawyers and you knew who they were because of
their clothes. You knew there is sort - It was like a little bit of a cast
system. But as credit became available to everybody, you could no - you no
longer were telling the world who you were. You were telling them who you
want to be.
HARRIS PERRY: Oh, so it becomes aspirational literally on -- you can buy
your Louis Vuitton over time.
VERDI: You can - actually, it has in project, and it - Christian Louboutin
shoes and Louis Vuitton bag and you can have an iPhone, but everybody on
Park Avenue has Louis Vuitton bag, Christian Louboutin shoes.
HARRIS PERRY: And so, they start dressing down in part of a signal of a
wealth that can dress down. Thank you to Teri Agins and to Robert Verdi
who also said his last name was Winfrey .
HARRIS PERRY: Also, to - . And to Thuy Linh Tu, and to Julian Zelizer.
Still to come this morning, the big baby news from Kate Middleton. And
this week, how Monica Lewinsky is taking on the Internet and gaining
thousands of followers while she does it. There`s more "Nerdland" at the
top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. Monica Lewinsky
believes she is the first-ever victim of the internet. In 1998, Lewinsky
was a 23-year-old former intern at the White House. She had no public
profile to speak of, but then the world learned of her affair with the most
public man in America, the president of the United States.
The affair was first reported in early 1998 by the then fledge ling
website, the Drudge Report. Then in September 1998 Special Prosecutor Ken
Star used the internet to release a report on the affair, 445 pages of the
most intimate details of Lewinsky`s sexual relationship with President
After that, we all knew those details and we knew her face and we knew her
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MONICA LEWINSKY: Overnight, I went from being a completely private figure
to a publicly humiliated one. I was patient zero. The first person to
have their reputation completely destroyed worldwide via the internet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: That was Lewinsky on Monday at the Forbes 30 Under 30 event, in her
first public speech after ten years spent more or less in hiding. Lewinsky
recalled the day the "Star Report" was released in September 1998 and her
reading every excruciating word, knowing that everyone in the world with an
internet connection could do the same.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEWINSKY: I couldn`t imagine ever showing my face in public again. I
cringed. I yelled. I sobbed. And the mantra continued. I just want to
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: Her name had become a punch line and one with serious staying
power. Less than a year ago, 15 years after the "Star Report" was
published, Beyonce released "Partition," a song that referenced about what
happened to Lewinsky`s blue dress.
Now Lewinsky is returning to public life, saying she hopes her unique story
of hyper public humiliation can help draw more attention to the much more
universal problem of cyber bullying and online harassment.
She cites, in particular, the death of Tyler Clemente, the Rutger
University student, who committed suicide in 2010 after his roommate
secretly filmed his intimate encounter with another man and streamed it
Lewinsky said that while she was touched by the tragedy, her mother was
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEWINSKI: She was back in 1998, back to a time when I was periodically
suicidal, when she might very easily have lost me, when I, too, might have
been humiliated to death.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: We don`t have comprehensive data on how many people take their own
lives due to bullying or online harassment. There is some research that
shows while traditional in real life bullying can increase the risk of
suicide, cyber bullying increases or heightens that risk even more.
In her speech, Lewinsky tried to capture the unique feeling of being
humiliated in a form as broad as the internet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEWINSKY: The experience of shame and humiliation online is different than
offline. There is no way to wrap your mind around where the humiliation
ends. There are no borders.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: And it is that point where I want to begin. Joining me now are
Anthea Butler, professor of Religious Studies at the University of
Pennsylvania, Liz Plank, senior editor at the newsitemic.com, Soraya
Chemaly, who writes for "The Huffington Post," the feminist wire, and more
on issues of feminism, gender and culture, Tyler Coates, deputy editor of
So, we hear from Lewinsky there the possibility that online harassment is
more than just something different in form than it may also be like
substantively, meaningfully different than even the kind of horror that is
LIZ PLANK, MIC: Right. It`s no coincidence that the person whose life was
ruined via the internet happened to be a woman just as it`s no coincidence
that the biggest celebrity hack of nude photos of all time was like 97
percent for women.
PERRY: But it`s both happening to women and specifically about shaming and
PLANK: Exactly. It had to do with homosexuality and shame involved,
right? The internet is a place that`s still very unsafe for women, just
like sidewalks. So I think it`s means a lot for Monica Lewinski to come
out and say, I don`t this self-imposed shame. I`m coming out and I`m not
going to apologize. I`m going to come out and have a wider message.
PERRY: So what do we do with the argument and, you know, I`m raising an
almost 13-year-old girl. There`s part of me as mom that just wants to say,
so don`t read it. So don`t go on Instagram. So don`t go on the Twitter.
Don`t worry about Facebook. It always seems to me that is the initial
response. What do you do with that as a response to this?
SORAYA CHEMALY, MEDIA CRITIC: I don`t think it`s a really practical
response because it`s so integral to our lives. It`s an essential aspect
to the way we interact at school, the way we interact at work. It`s our
And so seeding that ground as a woman certainly telling young women to seed
that ground I think is really the wrong message to send. I think we need
to look at what`s happening, what the dynamics are, what the gender
Because the word bullying or the world harassment kind of masks that, it
really doesn`t tell enough of the granular detail of how differently girls
and boys are treated. And we`re teaching children that they`re equal,
They run into this wall of double standards when they enter puberty.
That`s when we really see the effects take place and we see them in much
more amplified ways online.
PERRY: It does feel like if there were one place where men and women, boys
and girls would be equal, it would be in the digital space, right? Because
everybody is a little picture and everybody has 140 characters and
everybody has literally the same platform, right?
So wouldn`t this -- I mean, it feels as though structurally it is built to
generate a kind of galatarian space in terms of gender, race, maybe only in
terms of a digital divide of class access. Beyond that, it should be the
most of all of our spaces.
TYLER COATES, DECIDER.COM: Absolutely. I think that men and women still
online receive different forms of harassment and even in the most recent
Pew Research has shown that men respond to harassment in different ways
than women because it`s sort of, as you were saying, something that they
can shake off.
I have experienced it, too. Like probably not in ways that a lot of my
female friends who write for the internet have received awful, horrific
things. It has been something that I kind of have just tried to ignore.
As a gay man, I think I experience masogeny in a different way but I still
do. But it`s something, you know, growing up as a kid, who was bullied as
well, you kind of condition yourself to ignore it in a way that I guess, as
an adult, you are more prepared more.
PERRY: And yet I think even as I, you know, think just ignore it, which is
an awful lot of the strategy I`ve taken myself recently, and I think about
suggesting that kind of isolationism is what terrorism is, to isolate us
and separate us.
I`m at a point where I don`t re-tweet anything that I really like because I
fear that I would send all of my hater -- all of the harassment that comes
to me over to some person who doesn`t deserve it.
And so I keep thinking, I guess, it is having an effect. It`s literally
quieting whatever little digital voice I might have otherwise had.
ANTHEA BUTLER, UPENN: Yes. I remember when you were on Twitter at the
beginning, you were very --
PERRY: I loved it! It was like a Twitter party.
BUTLER: I think this is one of the problems that Twitter has right now.
Those of us that have been active users become less active because of what
is happening. So, you know, but I`m thinking about the statement you made,
little avatar in a little picture.
So some of the African-American women I followed online changed their
pictures to white men. What happens when you change to you to white men?
Nobody bothers you. You can say what you want.
That moment you change your avatar into a white male or, you know, even a
white woman sometimes, but mostly a white male, if you change it to a
white male, you are not harassed.
And I`m thinking of several people who have done this. I don`t want to
call their handles out but it just changes. So --
PERRY: That is -- but that`s fascinating social psychological experiment.
To get a -- whoever gets to achieve white maleness, right, and to literally
be able to do it overnight.
BUTLER: So the whole thing is about the biases that people have in real
life follow them into the internet. So if you are a -- you racialize
everything. You`re going to racialize it on the internet.
If you don`t like women, you`re going to do that on the internet. All the
things you don`t like are going to go into your internet life.
CHEMALY: I`m going to say one thing. That idea of disembodiment and
freedom was essential when the internet began. All that technology,
utopianism about how we could radically change this environment and our
free speech idea and in the last five years has been an exponential change
in technology that makes it much more photo intensive, right.
The introduction, proliferation that really pervasive use of photography
has, I think, amplified status quo inequities as opposed to helping
dissipate them. So something like this where people are changing their
avatars really speaks to that idea of how racialized and sexualized those
interactions can become.
PERRY: So, this is fascinating, right? Initially it is that kind of
perfect decardian dualism where it could be just ideas. In fact, some of
my favorite people initially they`ll follow on, in social media, following
cats. I had no idea what they were.
And they had bizarre names and that sort of thing, but you`re right. As we
move from 140 characters to primarily being that your greatest clicks come
when you have the picture or the video or the Instagram or the Vine, then
all the embodiment comes back. You`re no longer disembodied thought. More
Up next, is there a directed line from Monica Lewinsky`s story in 1998 to
the story of gamer gate in 2014? I`m not sure. Let`s talk about that when
we come back.
PERRY: Last week, we talked to Anita Carcisian, about the violent threats
against her as a result of her criticism of masogeny in online gaming.
Threats made mostly presumably by male gamers who are rallying under an
online movement generally referred to as #gamergate.
Initially Gamer Gate was about claims of certain game designers and their
relationships with journalists who cover the industry. But the term has
since become synonymous with online assaults and threats toward women
within the gaming community.
The hallmark of gamer gate is its attacks on those who speak out against
them. Among their most recent targets is Felicia Day, an actor on long
running TV show, "Supernatural," a video game enthusiast and the creator
and star for own fictional web series about online gaming.
To quote Buzzfeed, "Day is the geek of your dreams." Now they spoke about
Gamer Gate for the first time after attempting to avoid the topic for fear
she would be attacked.
She wrote, quote, "I realize that letting the actions of a few hateful
people influence my behavior is absolutely the worst thing I could do in
life and not an example I want to set, ever!
Within minutes she was docs`d. Her personal information including her e-
mail and physical addresses were published in the comment section of her
post. The exact thing she said she feared speaking out might cause.
Day is not alone, 40 percent of internet users say they have been harassed
online according to new numbers released by Pew Research this week. Forty
percent of people online have been called offensive names, humiliated,
threatened, or sexually harassed or stalked.
Now the rates of this grave abuse vary by age and gender, young women being
the most likely to being severely harassed, 25 percent of women between 18
and 24, they say they`ve been the target of sexual harassment, 26 percent
say they`ve been stalked.
The majority of women say their online harassers are people they don`t
know. Here is the thing I struggle with. A woman is in much more physical
danger from someone she knows, someone she`s close to in the physical world
more than she is from an anonymous person online.
According to the most recent comprehensive statistics compiled by the
Justice Department more than a decade ago, 55 percent of American women
have been physically assaulted or raped in their lifetimes and 76 percent
of adult women who have been assaulted were assaulted by an intimate
So, my question to my panel is how dangerous is harassment in 140
characters? So this is the conversation I`m having with my producers all
week. I hate the things that get said to me online. But the only person
who ever sexually assaulted me was somebody I knew, who I never had any
kind of digital interaction with.
CHEMALY: Right. I think there`s a lot of information, as you said.
There`s also a lot of overlap between what`s happening online and what`s
happening offline. So the National Network Domestic Violence recently did
a survey of all shelters in the country.
They found there were 66,000 calls a day to those shelters for help and at
90 percent of them. The shelters are struggling with what to do with
technology-enabled abuse. They really don`t know what to do with it.
And a tech summit that is really focused on the mechanics of how that abuse
is enabled online, how it`s abuse by telephones, by e-mail. Even in the
Pew survey, you could see a break between men who are being called names
and purposefully embarrassed.
Versus women who are being stalked, physically threatened, sexually
harassed and, like many of us, I think, are familiar with, that harassment
-- which again is that broad bucket term is sustained. So the effects on
their professional lives, emotional lives, on their free speech, everybody
is worried about a loss of speech.
PERRY: I have a find my family app on my phone so that if I`m not sure
where my 13-year-old I could find her, but I`m thinking in a domestic
violence situation, my abuser could track me to a safehouse via my phone,
which is a little bit different than the actual online stuff.
But again, 13-year-old daughter moment here, I also am thinking about --
so, again, for me the experience of sexual assault is a very physical and
personal one, but also people who send unsolicited sexualized photographs
to young girl, that constitutes a kind of sexual assault.
PLANK: Exactly. There was an interesting study that was done at one
school of economics two years ago, actually, that really went into detail
about what young girls face. And the idea that there`s a choice is
ludicrous because they`re getting these requests.
I mean, the researchers actually talked about having to interrupt the study
at certain points because these young girls, as young as 11 years old, were
getting these requests from other boys. And what came out of that research
PERRY: Or from grown men.
PLANK: Exactly. And what came out of that research was that these young
girls feared their peers online in this virtual world more than they did
strangers, stranger danger. They think that`s very troubling.
PERRY: Right. I want to come back to your point about the sort of role of
men within all of this. So if we go back to Gamer Gate for a second, which
really does seem like it has become shorthand for harassment, abuse,
Chris Chloe, former NFL player, trying to find one tweet we could sort of
put on television here. And for the record none of you f`ing #gamergate
tools tried to dox me even after I tore you a new one. I`m not even a
But Chloe is trying to make a claim there that the response to a man who
offers critique is quite different within this world.
COATES: Absolutely. Absolutely. I think, you know, men are probably more
conditioned to be less worried about physical assault and obviously sexual
assault. I think to go back to what you were saying earlier about even
young women who experience a sort of assault.
I think the biggest problem with online harassment really is, you just
never know who it is. I`ve had personal experiences where I have known
people who were trolling me and figured it out that it was people I had
known since college. I was like, why? What was the point of this?
So I think when you have the experience where you know someone personally,
you figure out that someone you mow physically is in your close proximity
is doing something to you and then you have someone who you can`t --
completely anonymous, you have no idea. That`s really the problem with the
effect of online harassment. It`s the uncertainty and the unknown that`s
PERRY: I wonder about answers, think through policy answers. We talked
about sort of how an individual user might behave differently, but whether
or not policy answers that preserve the freedom, flexibility, capacity that
we love in social media and on the internet that to its core to the
democratic neutrality of it all. But on the other hand create some
protections for people to be able to use those free spaces.
BUTLER: Yes, I think that`s really true. I think about all the women of
color that I know that are always completely trolled every day they live on
the internet. And I think one of the things that has to happen is, first,
these platforms need to realize that if they`re going to continue the way
they are -- I`m looking at you, Twitter.
That you want these users, you want people to use this space, you need to
make it a space that is going to be safe for them so you can manage threat.
PERRY: We want to be on it. It is a useful, valuable space.
BUTLER: Here`s the thing, most of the people who are on it, who have a
public platform, you have an employer or somebody behind you who can help
you work through some of these things if they are internet savvy. If they
are not and you`re just a blogger who started blogging and somebody didn`t
like what you did, some picture of you slipped out on the internet, you
don`t have anybody to protect you.
Most of the time, if you call law enforcement, there`s nobody there because
law enforcement doesn`t understand it. I hold these platforms accountable.
If you`re on Snapchat and all your stuff went out last week.
But if you`re on Twitter and you report -- you were telling me, you report
somebody on Twitter for abusive behavior and they tell the abuser that
you`re reporting them.
PERRY: Are there some best practices within the land of Facebook and
Snapchat? Are some doing it better than others or worse?
CHEMALY: I think there are some doing it. They`re all at different stages
of where they find themselves, right? So for about 18 months now I`ve been
working very closely with Facebook and recently with Twitter.
There`s a coalition of organizations and individuals that deal with gender
violent sexualisation and technology. And so Facebook, for example,
responded 18 months ago to a campaign that we ran that had them confront
this idea of what masogeny is.
What consent looks like on a platform like when you are using photographs,
when you`re using text. Twitter on the other hand of the spectrum is just
PERRY: To think through it?
CHEMALY: To think through it.
PERRY: I`m not even sure they`re all the way on the other end of the
spectrum. I mean, I got to say, I think yik yak -- Twitter may fall
somewhere in the middle of the spectrum as compared to --
CHEMALY: That comes down to the moderation policies and those are not
neutral ideas. Those are really informed by people`s larger ideas about
culture and gender.
PERRY: You want to talk about a job I don`t want to have, moderating.
That is just swimming in the hard stuff. Yes. Thank you to Soraya and to
CHEMALY: Thank you.
PERRY: And Tyler. You really did help me to change my world view on that
a little bit. Thank you to Tyler and also Anthea, who is just a friend so
glad to have you back at the table and also thank you to Liz. She is going
to stick around a little bit.
Up next, the big thing Kate Middleton did this week.
PERRY: This week, the Duchess of Cambridge did something millions of
pregnant women do every day. She went to work. After being out of the
public eye for more than a month, she made her first public appearance
since she announced she and Prince William announced they are having their
Severe morning sickness, same condition she suffered from when pregnant
with Prince George. On Tuesday, the duchess was there, smiling with her
husband, Prince William, as they greeted the president of Singapore. She
even braved a ride in a royal carriage and later that day dazzled her royal
watchers in a pale blue evening dress.
Riding in carriages, greeted heads of state, looking glamorous, even when
you`re a little green around the gills. It`s part of the job when you`re a
member of the royal family. Kate has managed to do all of this while also
reflecting some of the realities of motherhood.
After the birth of her first child, she appeared on the hospital steps,
proudly displaying her post baby bump along with her newborn son and by
taking a break in the early stages of this second pregnancy, she reminds
our celebrity-obsessed public that carrying a child is not just about the
glow and cute maternity clothes.
Sometimes it`s all about the morning sickness, so severe you simply can`t
get out of bed. Of course, Kate is not the only expectant mom to have
health issues disrupt her responsibilities. But unlike Kate, many pregnant
workers don`t have the freedom to just take a break from some of their
Their stories and a new report on the pregnancy penalty, when we come back.
PERRY: A report by the Center for American Progress shows that three-
quarters of women entering the workforce will become pregnant at least once
while employed. Whether it`s because of a promising career, a much-needed
paycheck or both, women are working further into their pregnancies.
Eighty-eight percent of first-time mothers who worked during pregnancy are
on the job right up until the eighth or ninth month. There are signs that
the workplace has not caught up to this reality.
This term the Supreme Court will decide a pivotal case involving a Maryland
woman who says she was the victim of pregnancy discrimination. And a new
report by the legal advocacy group a better balance declares that there is
a pregnancy penalty, bias and inflexibility towards women in the workplace
that starts when they become pregnant and snowballs into lasting economic
The report finds that despite advances in gender equality over the past 40
years, women continue to jeopardize their livelihoods simply by having
Armanda Legros says that`s what happened to her. She says during her
pregnancy, she was working for an armored truck company when her doctor
advised her against lifting heavy objects. Her boss responded by sending
her home immediately, without pay.
Earlier this year, she shared her story before a Senate committee hearing
on working women.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Having a child shouldn`t mean losing your job. It
should not lead to fear or financial dire straits, but the experience of
having my son without a paycheck was one of the hardest for my family.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: With me at the table, Emily Martin, Vice President and General
Counsel of the National Womens Law Center, Liz Plank, senior editor of Mic,
Dina Bakst who is co-founder and co-president of A Better Balance, the work
and family legal center, which is the organization that put together the
report on the pregnancy penalty, and the woman whose story you just heard,
Armanda Legros. Tell me a little bit about your story.
ARMANDA LEGROS, WOMEN`S EQUALITY ADVOCATE: Thank you for having me here
this morning. I was with my job about three years before I was pushed out
at six months pregnant because I gave him note saying I had to restrain
from heavy lifting.
My manager took one look at the note and told me that I would have to, you
know, work without any restrictions and this was a worldwide policy and I
would not be able to go back to work until I provided a note giving me
PERRY: Now this was a decision made by a manager, but a decision that he
says is policy of the company. Is that right?
LEGROS: Yes, that`s correct.
PERRY: So hold on for just one second. As a matter of law, if that policy
does, in fact, exist, is that a policy that is in violation of U.S. law?
EMILY MARTIN, VP AND GENERAL COUNSEL, NWLC: So the pregnancy
discrimination act says you have to treat pregnant workers as well as you
treat those who are similar in ability to work. So what that means is if
an employer provides light duty or some sort of accommodation, if someone
has a temporary back injury, for example, they have to provide the same
accommodations for a pregnant worker.
Unfortunately, lots of employers still haven`t gotten that message. What
happens is that women are pushed out and lose their income at the moment
they need it most. And no woman should lose her job because she`s
PERRY: And just as a matter of your own personal experience -- we can`t
adjudicate the case here. Had you seen other workers, for example, who had
a back injury and for some other reason why they had to, for some period of
time, do lighter duty be accommodated?
LEGROS: There was, in fact, a worker who injured himself on the job. He
was accommodated, given light duty. He was also working at the same time
period that I was working. So, I didn`t see why I wasn`t accommodated when
he was able to.
PERRY: So, as I hear that story, it`s like there`s 15 thing that is rise
up in me about like where is the union in this moment? Let`s sue the
suckers and -- so I`m having all -- but we know that sometimes what feels
like a discriminatory act like that is so clear.
I`m pregnant. Here`s my note. Go home without pay. But other times that
pregnancy penalty, as the report shows, is happening in maybe more
insidious, in less clear ways?
DINA BAKST, A BETTER BALANCE: Well, what we see is it`s nearly 36 years
marking the anniversary of the pregnancy discrimination act. As Emily
said, pregnancy discrimination is alive and well in this country. While
blatant discrimination exists, there are -- this rising form of
discrimination that Armanda mentioned.
Where when a pregnant woman hand in a note that requires a modest
accommodation to continue working, they`re pushed out and the economic
consequences are truly devastating. You heard from Armanda. Just this
week, you may have heard about another client who requested temporary
relief from mandatory overtime.
It was doctor`s orders and they said, I`m sorry, no restrictions and sent
her home. She lost her health insurance and the economic consequences were
really devastating. And this happens to women over and over and over
PERRY: So I`m thinking about how that ends up structuring an overall
economic job market. Again, as a college professor, I`ve got lots of young
millenials going out into the job market. I`m thinking if they recognize
that even a discussion about family, even at the dinner that you might have
or in -- even discussing the fact that you have children.
It`s all about individual choices, but I`m wondering if knowing these
realities about pregnancy discrimination shift how young women even
encounter the job market.
PLANK: Of course, it has a huge impact. We`re still stuck in the Stone
Age when it comes to women in the workplace and yet we get lost, you know,
in these conversations about everything. Like that`s going to solve the
problem. Clearly that`s, you know, sort of delaying the problem and even
taking companies sort of off the hook to actually deal with this problem in
PERRY: So let me back up a little bit though because there`s another part
of my brain that is the experience of enslaved women in the U.S., of
immigrant working women in the U.S., who were forced not to go home, but to
work until it was harmful to themselves, to their growing family.
So how do we balance on the one hand saying, you have to allow me the
capacity to work, but also wanting to say we demand to be better than Papua
New Guinea, we would like a little leave time as well.
MARTIN: That`s exactly why the accommodation issue and the leave issues
are so important especially because these impacts lower wage women. Women
who are in flexible jobs where there is a culture of employer saying, no,
we are not going to make any changes for you if you need them.
It`s what we need, not what you need. So women who work in retail, as
cleaners, as nursing assistants, in restaurants are put in this terrible
situation where they`re being asked to choose between the job and the
health of their pregnancy, which is a decision nobody should have to make.
PERRY: Hold on for me one second. We`ll talk more about this when we come
back. I also want to talk to you about sort of the question of both the
balance question around employment while pregnant, but then also the part
where you`re parenting a new, young baby and sort of the challenge there as
well. We need to take a quick break.
But first, I want to listen to the president on the very issue of work/life
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: When Michelle and
I had our girls, we gave everything we had to try to balance raising a
family and chasing careers. I`ll be honest with you, it was harder for her
than it was for me.
When she was with the girls she would feel guilty, am I doing everything I
need to do on the job? When she was at work, she worried about are the
girls missing me? I know Barack is messing up somehow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: All the political wrangling over Obamacare the public often missed
the opportunity to hear about many of the actual provisions of the
Affordable Care Act like Section 4207, which requires an employer to
provide a reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for
her nursing child for one year after the child`s birth.
And employers must give women this break and a place other than a bathroom
that is shielded from view and free from intrusion and from co-workers and
Another reminder that balancing work and family is not just about how
organized and determined the individual woman is, it`s about policy and
ensuring the workplaces make room for pregnant women and mothers.
We`ve talked a little bit about the pregnancy discrimination piece, I want
to deep talking about that, but there`s also the parenting of brand new
baby piece that can feel so uneven on a work site.
LEGROS: Parenting my child without a paycheck, it was the most difficult
thing for me to do. I felt it would have been easier if I was better
financially, and I was clearly not in a state where I was able to provide
for them as much as I wanted to provide for them, which made it difficult
and made motherhood difficult especially when you want to enjoy having a
new baby and enjoy the precious times with them. It felt like more of a
burden than a blessing at the time.
PERRY: I so appreciate that you just said that because I think
particularly in these settings, we just get into the conversation of, so
you have 24 hours and how hard it is to balance these hours with baby
versus without baby, but that idea of the necessity of an economic safety
net in order to be able to even enjoy the experience of parenting, so you
would have rather been in a circumstance of having to balance the workplace
than not having sufficient resources.
MARTIN: Motherhood is a risk factor for poverty for all these reasons
because women are forced off the job when they`re pregnant because they go
on to unpaid leave when they have a baby and have no income, when women`s
income is so critical for families` economic securities these days. That
if that paycheck is lost often the whole family is in a really desperate
PERRY: And that gap for women who are mothers versus women not mothers
continues over time. There`s a gender gap in general, but then there`s a
mother hood gap.
PERRY: How do you think it`s about the culture of presumptions what
mothers are meant to be up to versus fathers. Fathers actually experience
a pay --
PLANK: A happy bonus.
PERRY: Many fathers earn more lifetime than men never fathers.
PLANK: That needs to be part of the compensation too. We are talking
about the gender wage gap, it is smaller than the gap between mothers and
non-mothers and yet when we have these conversations, we don`t really
And in terms of policy, we`ve seen countries do very well and reduce that
burden on women and put it on, sort of equalize it across men and women in
Sweden, for example, when you have good child care policies and better
parental need policies. In America we`re still the last industrialized
country to not have paid parental leave.
PERRY: I`ve gotten in trouble more than once for saying this, but it feels
to me because there is, that that happens in part because there is a
presumption that each individual family`s responsibility is solely their
And that we, rather than saying there is -- we have an interest, a
community interest in quality experiences of childhood and of parenting and
we`re willing to invest in that, just like parks and roads and family is
something we could invest in through our policy.
BAKST: Right, there is a narrative, a strong belief in this country that
this is their individual problem to solve on their own compared to many
other countries where there is a culture of care, supportive laws and
policies to help workers, men and women, care for their families without
risking their economic security.
As we said in our report this pregnancy penalty is really this key trigger
for inequality for women that pushes them deeper into poverty when they
need financial security the most and policies not only strong on pregnancy
discrimination laws, which happened in New York City and around the country
But also paid sick days and paid family leave that helps keep women
attached to the workforce and earning the income that they deserve.
PERRY: We talk about employment discrimination. Is there pregnancy
penalties and discrimination in housing as well? I`m thinking if you show
up and you are visibly with child, are you less likely to be able to rent
an apartment? Does it exist anywhere other than simply in employment?
MARTIN: Certainly there are housing discrimination cases where landlords
don`t want children in the apartment, even though that`s illegal
PERRY: That`s a violation of the federal fair housing act.
MARTIN: It is. There are problems if you`re pregnant in school with
schools not making basic accommodations and excusing your absences so you
can have your baby and take your finals when you come back.
There`s a link between policy and culture and when we are clear in our
public policies that this is what we as a nation and community believe
about family and about work and about our obligations to each other, that
really has an impact on what people think about our mutual obligations.
And that`s the reason why the Supreme Court case is so important about
Peggy Young, the UPS driver forced off the job when she had a 20-pound
lifting restriction because it`s real opportunity for the court to speak in
a clear voice and say that`s not what we are about and not what workplace
justice is about.
PERRY: Do employees have a legal responsibility to tell their employer
that they are pregnant?
PERRY: You can be just like no, I`m eating cake. Do you ever have to
MARTIN: You never have to tell. At some point you might want to mention
it for practical and other reasons, but there`s never an obligation on the
employee to inform the employer, and frankly, at some moments there may be
reasons not to.
If you`re in an interview process early in your pregnancy, studies and
reports have shown that actually people respond less well to pregnant women
in those situations, are less likely to think that they`re competent and
committed to their job. There might be a real reason not to bring it up
until later in the process when you`re a little more secure.
PERRY: What choices do you feel like you`re left with after you were sent
home and sent home without pay in terms of being able to then as a person
who was pregnant seek other employment?
LEGROS: Well, I wasn`t left with much options, I had to apply for public
assistance. I had to basically get medical -- you basically start from
scratch to provide for my family, which was very hard, and looking for a
job six months pregnant was not easy.
I was visibly pregnant so at the interviews it wasn`t really, it didn`t
seem successful and I knew exactly why it wasn`t successful. People usually
don`t talk about it or you know, the interviewer, the manager wouldn`t
speak about it or tell you why, but you know why you didn`t get the job.
PERRY: So it ends up being compounding. I appreciate you made the point
about health insurance being attached to it, right? So you go from being,
having a paycheck and having health insurance to having neither and then
also not being able to just get a job because that pregnancy discrimination
is following you in the interviewing process.
LEGROS: Yes, correct.
PERRY: It`s something we don`t think about often enough but one very
valuable and I appreciate the report and the legal work around it. Thank
you to Emily and to Liz and also thank you to Dina and to Armanda.
Up next, remembering a rethinker.
PERRY: In 2012, I spoke at a conference in New Orleans on the mental
health of New Orleans youth. There I had the opportunity to meet a truly
extraordinary local community organizer. He was widely praised as a
transformative thinker and an outspoken advocate.
He had already been a central part of changing the contract New Orleans
schools had with their food provider to include locally grown produce
instead of cheaper processed food. And he was outspoken about how
standardized tests created an unhealthy learning environment for students
by adding an extraordinary amount of stress to the school day.
That organizer, George Carter, is 15 years old this year, but he had
already established himself as a leading voice in the city. He joined the
New Orleans organization, Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools, when he was
only 7, working to evaluate school communities and recommend systematic
George`s family is called the founding family of Rethink. He and his three
siblings have been members of organizations since its beginning. George
was a participant in the first ever youth-led Orleans Parish School Board
He had been on the team that won a design competition for planning
educational facilities. He had contributed to the Rethinker`s first book
"Feet to the Fire: The Rethinkers` Guide to changing your Schools."
George was passionate about making schools safe for kids and he had just
begun an internship with the capital post-conviction project of Louisiana.
This week we lost George carter. He was shot. His body found in the
middle of the street in New Orleans on Tuesday at 7:00 a.m. George was 15
years old, but he had already changed his community.
He was grappling with big ideas about how to make our world safer and
healthier and more just. He was rethinking our schools and advocating for
the voices of youth to be included in our education system. He was working
to turn big ideas into transformational changes.
George carter was 15 years old and he was shot. George, George`s family is
accepting contributions to cover funeral expenses. You can find a link to
donate at the Rethink Facebook page. George, rest in peace, rest in power.
We will continue the work that you have pioneered.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE CARTER: I believe that the solutions in us, the youth, we are the
one that can change our school. We are the one that goes to the school
every day. We are the experts, and we are here education nation, this is
our opportunity to take the power and change our schools.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: That`s our program for today. Thank you for joining us. I`ll be
bam here tomorrow morning 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Up next is "WEEKENDS WITH
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