"Roommaids," brawlers and sex slaves

Time magazine reveals the many flattering faces of the female gender.

Published May 2, 2006 7:02PM (EDT)

Time magazine had a Sunday New York Times moment with its May 1 issue; the magazine has a total of three Broadsheet-worthy articles. Let's start with the lightest (it is only Tuesday, after all) and end with the darkest (so as to ease you into another fun week of women-centered news).

Apparently, women are increasingly searching out male roommates who offer free rent in exchange for household chores and general mommying. Reminder (as if it's actually needed): "Women's work" doesn't count as work or an economic exchange. These "roommaids" cater to young professional men who don't want the "financial burden of hiring a housekeeper or the emotional commitment of living with a lover." It's the domestic version of the drunken one-night stand. These set-ups "horrify some feminists," according to the article. I wouldn't call myself horrified, but I am somewhat depressed by the traditional economically driven gender roles exhibited here. More depressing, though, was the article's kicker, where, rather than a convenient economic transaction, the whole trend is boiled down to a dirty French maid fantasy.

On just the page before is an article with this gem of a headline: "Taming Wild Girls: Never Mind the Gentler Gender. Girls, Too, Can Be Brawlers ..." Time makes the case for a nationwide trend of brutal girl fighting. The article reports that 25 percent of girls admitted in 2003 to "having carried a gun or a knife or been in at least one physical fight in the previous year," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Interestingly, though, Footnote TV notes that the article conveniently omits the fact that this figure has decreased from 34 percent in 1991. Make of that what you will.

Now this article is strong enough to elicit my horror, because there is no element of choice here. Since Saddam Hussein's fall in 2003, Iraqi women have been disappearing and many of them are being filtered into the underground sex trade. While the U.S. State Department said the scale of the issue "is difficult to appropriately gauge," the Organization for Women's Freedom in Iraq estimates that more than 2,000 women have gone missing. In the honor-based society, if a woman's virginity is compromised outside of marriage, she is permanently debased; even if these women manage to escape their kidnappers, many families will refuse their return. Activists are determined to arrange shelters for these women, but must first jump through several bureaucratic hoops. Activist Yanar Mohammed told Time, "They want to close our women's shelter and deny our ability to open more."

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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