The Interior Department will release its next offshore oil and gas lease plan by June 30 after all

Ukraine update: Russia's advance stalls again, and a new Ukrainian tank brigade enters the fight

Alyssa Milano: Fight back for reproductive autonomy by finally enacting Equal Rights Amendment

In Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Deep-Red District, Democrats Eye a (Very Small) Opening

Study offers clearer picture of how extremism has seeped into halls of power, and it’s not good

How the pandemic affected incarcerated people and their loved ones

Doug Mastriano did not need Trump to lead him to conspiracy theories. He's been there for 20 years

The push toward a four-day workweek is gaining momentum

Black Music Sunday: Let's talk about jazz, the blues, and Langston Hughes

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: A rant about fairy tales

I can't rant about religion because that's a generalization

From fake customer accounts to fake job interviews, Wells Fargo is just the worst

2 out of 3 people oppose overturning Roe v. Wade, poll finds

Ukraine update: Seriously, stop panicking about Popasna

NIMBY opposition to a Planned Parenthood clinic might be enough to destroy your faith in humanity

Group that sunk Madison Cawthorn's reelection bid sets its sights on Lauren Boebert

Anti-vaxx, anti-lockdown rocker Eric Clapton tests positive for COVID-19

The Back Booth: ‘Republicans Can Take a Homeless Guy Off the Street and He Will Easily Win the Race’

Republican Sen. Rick Scott continues to distance himself from his own tax hike plan

The Downballot: Big primary recap and New York redistricting nonsense (transcript)

Michigan neo-Nazis tried to build ‘community’ at farmhouse, end up facing prison time instead

The Commerce Department's solar probe isn't exactly going well

What the Buffalo Tragedy Has to do With the Effort to Overturn Roe

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: The culture wars, home and abroad

Bolsolão do SUS: dinheiro da saúde no bolso do Centrão 5

Bolsolão do SUS: dinheiro da saúde no bolso do Centrão

Foto: Mateus Bonomi/Getty Images Enquanto todos os olhos estavam voltados para os gastos do casamento de Lula e para a nova ofensiva do presidente contra o STF, um escândalo de grandes proporções…

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In Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Deep-Red District, Democrats Eye a (Very Small) Opening

This article is part of The D.C. Brief, TIME’s politics newsletter. Sign up here to get stories like this sent to your inbox. HIRAM, Ga.—Andrea Baerwalde had something of a fashion crisis…

Ministério das Comunicações escondeu encontro de Bolsonaro com Elon Musk 6

Ministério das Comunicações escondeu encontro de Bolsonaro com Elon Musk

O presidente Jair Bolsonaro e o ministro das Comunicações Fábio Faria se reuniram nesta sexta-feira com o empresário Elon Musk, dono da Tesla e da SpaceX, em um hotel de luxo em…

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‘I’m Sorry. I’ve Got Your Sister.’ A Family Grieves After the Buffalo Shooting

Katherine Massey had a list. She needed to get meat, fruit, paper towels. The 72-year-old Buffalo native usually went to the grocery store every two weeks, and when she did, she stocked…

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The Real Dividing Line On Abortion

There are certain divides in the American electorate that we return to over and over again to explain why people think and vote the way they do. Age, gender, race, education — you know the drill. But other, harder-to-see divisions can be just as important, if not more so. Those hidden divisions aren’t about vital statistics or affiliations. They’re about how people see the world.

Take the issue of abortion. It’s been in the headlines ever since a leaked Supreme Court opinion suggested that five justices are ready to overturn Roe v. Wade, giving states the power to ban abortion for the first time in about 50 years. Plenty of speculation has focused on how such a ruling would affect female voters, particularly if it could push more women to vote for Democrats in this year’s midterm elections. 

But that framing isn’t the only way to look at the issue. Even though abortion is often presented as a women’s issue, it’s not a topic with a stark division of opinion between men and women. If you dig into the polling and research, it becomes clear that the divide is less about people’s individual genders than the way they think about gender. People who believe in traditional gender roles — and perceive that those roles are increasingly being blurred to men’s disadvantage — are much likelier to oppose abortion than people who don’t hold those beliefs. 

The dividing lines of the abortion debate aren’t just about the morality of terminating a pregnancy. They’re also about views of power. Who has it? Who doesn’t? And who should? And the influence of those beliefs isn’t limited to abortion — it also spills into other culture wars, particularly about whether men face discrimination.

Whenever abortion is in the news, a lot of discussion inevitably hinges on how women will respond. Losing access to safe, legal abortion will mean that more women carry unwanted pregnancies. The issue itself is often framed in terms of women’s rights and autonomy. The problem is that not all women think about abortion that way. According to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center, men and women in the U.S. have exceedingly similar views about abortion’s legality.

The Pew poll did find that more women (40 percent) than men (30 percent) said they’ve thought “a lot” about abortion. But that doesn’t mean women’s views on the issue are more uniform. In fact, some of the most prominent anti-abortion advocates and politicians are women. One reason is that religion is a good predictor of views on abortion, and women tend to be more religious than men. Some people who oppose abortion also see it as a women’s-rights issue but in a different sense of the term — they argue that abortion hurts women.

People with different views on what's needed for gender equality, it turns out, also tend to think pretty differently about abortion — at least, that’s what Tresa Undem, a co-founder of the nonpartisan research firm PerryUndem, has found. In a recent survey,6 her firm found that 69 percent of voters who want the Supreme Court to overturn Roe agreed with the statement “These days, society seems to punish men just for acting like men,” while a similar share of voters who support Roe (63 percent) disagreed. In a 2019 poll7 that PerryUndem ran in partnership with Supermajority, a left-leaning advocacy group that focuses on women as a voting bloc, they found that likely voters who oppose abortion rights were much less likely, in general, to believe that the balance of power between men and women is unequal, or that issues like birth control access and women’s political representation affects women’s equality.

These findings line up with decades of research suggesting that views of abortion are intimately linked to how people think about motherhood, sex and women’s social roles. In the 1980s, the sociologist Kristin Luker argued that abortion is such an intractable issue because the people on either side of the debate have fundamentally different ideas about women’s autonomy. According to her, abortion-rights supporters saw women’s ability to make decisions about their bodies as fundamental to women’s equality, while anti-abortion advocates believed this focus on autonomy undermines the importance of women’s roles as mothers. 

That analysis can feel a little stuck in the Reagan era, particularly since support for women working outside the home has grown significantly since the 1980s. Tricia Bruce, a sociologist affiliated with the University of Notre Dame’s Center for the Study of Religion and Society who has researched attitudes toward abortion, said that people who oppose abortion aren’t “necessarily [coming] from a place where women belong in only one sphere, which is motherhood.” But views about power and control are still crucially important, she said. In contrast with a focus on women’s ability to make decisions about their own bodies, anti-abortion advocates see that choice within a broader context where other people have views that matter too. “We hear about women and their spouses, what’s the father’s role,” she said. “The idea is that this is not a decision that women should make in isolation.”

The divide between people who support traditional gender roles — especially those who think modern society is upsetting the balance of those roles by giving women too much power — and people who disagree with that position is spawning other culture wars. It’s partly why former President Donald Trump’s hypermasculine persona worked so well for him politically, and why Republican politicians continue to focus on the idea that men face discrimination, fueled by a backlash to the #MeToo movement and by declining rates of higher education and rising rates of loneliness among men.

These arguments don’t appeal to all men, of course, and they do appeal to some women

Those messages tap into anxieties shared by men and women about the waning influence of traditional gender roles — in this case, traditional masculinity. Political scientists have found that when people are thinking about threats to their power and status, political behavior and attitudes change, making leaning on those anxieties a viable political strategy. For instance, in an experimental study conducted in 2016, the authors found that when men’s masculinity was threatened by the prospect of job loss, those men were more likely to say they wanted a masculine president — which, of the two candidates, was Trump.

This also helps explain why there are usually bigger political divides among men and women than between them. For example, studies find that men who adhere to more stringent notions of masculine identity, which is used as a proxy for supporting traditional gender roles, look very different on political issues than men who identify as less masculine, as we wrote in 2020. Another way to see these divides is through the lens of partisanship. According to a recent poll by the American Enterprise Institute’s Survey Center on American Life, 25 percent of Democratic men and 20 percent of Democratic women agreed with the statement “American society today has become too soft and feminine,” while 78 percent of Republican men and 65 percent of Republican women agreed with it. And just 26 percent of Democratic men and 20 percent of Democratic women agreed with the statement “White men are too often blamed for problems in American society,” compared with 75 percent of Republican men and 60 percent of Republican women.

All of this complicates the conventional political wisdom about how and why voters will respond to political changes and messaging. It’s a little pointless to ask whether women as a whole would mobilize in response to the Supreme Court overturning Roe, since women hold such wildly different views on abortion. Instead, it’s more telling to examine other facets of people’s identities — like their beliefs about gender roles — that are less visible but more politically powerful.

“Abortion is becoming personal for people who see it as a proxy for men, largely white men, taking away power from women,” Undem told us. “It’s not about a procedure. It’s about women’s place in the world.”

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‘I’m Just Waiting for Someone to Knock on the Door.’ Parents of Trans Kids in Texas Fear Family Protective Services Will Target Them

Parents of transgender youth in Texas are stuck in limbo after a new statement issued by the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) on Thursday suggested the Department will continue investigating parents who may have provided gender-affirming care to their children.

On May 13, the Texas Supreme Court narrowed a statewide injunction to stop the DFPS probes only into one family and one doctor named as plaintiffs in a ongoing lawsuit—seemingly unfreezing the at least eight other known investigations that were opened this year after Republican Governor Greg Abbott directed the Department to investigate gender-affirming medical care as child abuse. But the court also ruled that neither Abbott nor Attorney General Ken Paxton has the authority to direct DFPS investigations, and left in place the lower court’s decision that stopped the investigation of the plaintiffs while noting that the probe would cause “irreparable harm.”
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The Texas Supreme Court’s ruling seemingly left it up to the discretion of DFPS whether to continue its other ongoing investigations of minors receiving gender-affirming health care. After a week of uncertainty, DFPS issued a statement Thursday stating: “DFPS treats all reports of abuse, neglect, and exploitation seriously and will continue to investigate each to the full extent of the law.”

The vaguely worded statement left it unclear whether the open child abuse probes will move forward. But one source familiar with internal discussions at the Governor’s office, the Texas Attorney General’s office, and DFPS tells TIME that DFPS is resuming those investigations into the families who are not plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Neither the Governor’s office nor the Attorney General’s office responded to TIME’s request for comment on whether the investigations are resuming.

The unclear status of the remaining abuse probes has left those families fearful of what could come next. “Ever since Friday, I’m just waiting for someone to knock on the door,” says Amber Briggle, a mother of a 14-year-old trans son in North Texas who tells TIME she and her husband are under a DFPS investigation that was opened in response to the Governor’s directive. “This is an emotional trauma that we will all carry with us, probably forever.” Briggle compares the adrenaline she’s felt over the past week since the Texas Supreme Court’s ruling to the aftermath of a car accident.

Briggle Family
Jillian R McKenzie/Courtesy Amber Briggle Amber and Adam Briggle and their two children

Ian Pittman, an attorney representing the Briggle family in their DFPS investigation, says they are considering their legal opinions. Pittman also represents another family that is being investigated that is choosing to remain anonymous. “If the Department follows the law in Texas… they will close any active investigation and rule out the allegations of abuse and neglect,” argues Pittman. But the source familiar with internal discussions at the Governor’s office, the Texas Attorney General’s office, and DFPS tells TIME the Department doesn’t plan to close those investigations.

It would be quite foolish for DFPS to actually try to reopen or push forward these investigations when there’s already a court order in place that what they’re doing is likely illegal,” says Brian Klosterboer, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Texas, which brought the lawsuit with Lambda Legal challenging the Governor’s directive on behalf of the anonymous Doe family and a doctor—the investigations that remain halted by the lower court’s order. “And if they do try to push forward any other investigations, any of those families could do the same thing that the Doe family did, potentially bringing a lawsuit,” he adds.

The ACLU of Texas’ lawsuit is currently pending before an appeals court that will review the lower court’s decision. It could take a long time for the litigation to be ultimately decided. In the meantime, the families that are not protected by the injunction face uncertainty over whether the probes into them will resume while they seek care for their trans or gender expansive children.

Read More: Pediatricians Who Serve Trans Youth Face Increasing Harassment. Lifesaving Care Could Be on the Line

Gender-affirming care can treat gender dysphoria, which is often described as the discomfort or distress that might occur when a person’s gender identity is inconsistent with the sex they were assigned at birth. Such care can include medication that stops the continued development of a puberty incongruent with a young person’s gender identity, and the taking of gender-affirming hormones, such as testosterone or estradiol, when a young person reaches adolescence. This treatment is supported by major medical organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and the American Psychological Association, and an emerging body of research has found that affirming care models can result in young people having fewer mental health concerns.

Before Abbott issued his directive in February, DFPS did not investigate gender-affirming care as child abuse. The Texas Family Code makes no mention of gender-affirming care, but bills were introduced in the last legislative session that would expand the legal definition of child abuse to include it. Arkansas, Arizona, and Alabama have all passed laws banning medical professionals from providing gender-affirming care to minors in the past 14 months.

“We’re dreading the next session,” says Amber Briggle. “We just want to be left alone.” Her husband Adam compares the feeling to the ending of Star Wars: A New Hope, when the movie’s protagonist Luke Skywalker is racing to escape the Death Star before it blows up. That’s how Adam says he feels about trying to get his trans son through high school before the state enacts more anti-trans laws.

Amber Briggle says President Joe Biden and other Democratic politicians she supports aren’t taking enough action to protect the families of trans kids in Texas. And she is frustrated that the U.S. Senate has not passed the Equality Act, which would expand legal protections against sex-based discrimination to include discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Parents like us are stuck fighting by ourselves, with mounting legal bills, with health care being taken from our kids,” she says. “People need to wake up to this reality and make this a priority. Because we can’t do it alone.”

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Biden’s Moves on NATO Come Amid Fear Russian War Will Expand Past Ukraine

Vladimir Putin’s name barely came up as Joe Biden stood with the leaders of Finland and Sweden on Thursday under a bright May sun and praised their newfound interest in joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. But the question of how the Russian President would react to the development loomed large over the proceedings in the White House Rose Garden.

“New members joining NATO is not a threat to any nation—it never has been,” Biden said to reporters, although he may as well have been speaking to Putin directly. “NATO’s purpose is to defend against aggression. That’s its purpose: to defend. Let no one make a mistake of the meaning of this historic day.”
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But as a seismic shift in alliances in Europe unfolds, some Russia experts warn that the long-term effects are difficult to game out, and are concerned that the Biden Administration is not fully thinking through the far-reaching ramifications as it careens forward in the region. Since Russia began its invasion in February, the U.S. has gotten progressively bolder in its efforts to support Ukraine’s military and bolster NATO, even as Putin has claimed the alliance’s actions, and particularly the prospect of Ukraine joining it at some point, were factors in his decision to launch the current war.

Asked a day earlier about what preparations Biden was making in case Putin decided to escalate the war in retaliation for Finland and Sweden joining NATO, Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, said, “I’m not going to go into hypotheticals. We’re going to focus on what’s happening here and now.”

Hours after the meeting of world leaders at the Rose Garden, Congress approved sending an additional $40 billion in assistance to Ukraine’s defense, the largest single foreign aid package of its kind in decades. The U.S. and European allies have already shipped massive amounts of artillery and firepower to Ukraine as its forces fight to reclaim territory taken by Russia since February. Nonetheless, Putin isn’t backing down.

“The Russian leadership is showing no signs of self doubt about the necessity of fighting on,” says Andrew Weiss, the vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a former director for Russian, Ukrainian, and Eurasian affairs on the National Security Council staff. Russia still has vast resources to keep the fight going, he notes, even as its economy has cratered under international sanctions. A grinding land war that continues with no end in sight remains a possibility. The Russians “are definitely waging a war in a way that is brutal and sloppy,” says Weiss, “but the ability of the Russian state to find the resources to keep doing that is rather open ended.”

Russia also has other tactics it hasn’t reached for yet, including cyberattacks against European countries and the U.S., says Michael Kofman, the director of the Russia studies program at CNA, a think tank, and a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center’s Kennan Institute. The U.S. is “very much a material party to this conflict as are other European states,” Kofman says. “Just because you haven’t seen Russian cyberattacks or another form of retaliation against the United States in the war so far, doesn’t mean it won’t happen.” Kofman thinks the risk of Russia using nuclear weapons remains low, despite Putin’s announcement that he had put Russia’s nuclear forces on a higher level of alert.

The pressure to de-escalate the conflict is likely to grow as the impact is felt around the world. Russia has largely blockaded grain exports from Ukraine, contributing to global shortages and price spikes. Sanctions against Russian energy sales imposed after the country’s armored units advanced on the interior of Ukraine in late February has led to a world-wide increase in fuel costs, contributing to rising inflation in the U.S. and increasing political liability for Biden and the Democrats going into the midterm elections in November.

Biden is committed to supporting Ukraine in the long-term, Jean-Pierre said on Thursday in response to a question from TIME. “This is something that’s incredibly important to the President,” Jean-Pierre said, “but also to our partners and allies, that we make sure that Ukraine is able to defend their democracy.”

At the end of his appearance in the Rose Garden with President Sauli Niinistö of Finland and Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson of Sweden, Biden hugged Andersson as a reporter shouted a question, asking what Biden had to say to those who “might be worried right now during this vulnerable transition.” Biden didn’t stop to answer, and the three leaders turned to walk back into the West Wing.

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Why Madison Cawthorn Lost His Race

About 95% of members of the U.S. House get re-elected for subsequent terms. North Carolina Congressman Madison Cawthorn, a 26-year-old scandal-ridden Republican, became a rare exception when he lost his primary race on Tuesday.

In one of the most high-profile races in the country, Cawthorn conceded defeat to Chuck Edwards, a North Carolina Republican State senator and small businessman, late Tuesday night. As of Wednesday morning, Cawthorn trailed Edwards by at least 1.5%, or 1,319 votes.

Cawthorn’s loss did not come as a surprise to the state’s political experts and GOP operatives. In his first two years in Congress, he weathered a series of unforced errors and scandals that ultimately overcame even the power of an endorsement from former President Donald Trump. Since his election in November 2020, Cawthorn claimed, without evidence, that the Jan. 6 Capitol rioters were left-wing anti-fascist agitators rather than frenzied Trump supporters; he was cited for attempting to bring a loaded gun through airport security and charged with driving with a revoked license; he claimed he had been invited to an orgy in Washington and seen public figures doing drugs; and Politico published photos of him wearing women’s lingerie on a vacation.
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Cawthorn angered his congressional colleagues with his salacious orgy comment, and the lingerie photos were a particularly damaging surprise for voters, experts say, released less than a month before the primary. Cawthorn called them “goofy vacation photos during a game on a cruise,” but the explanation didn’t pass muster in his home state. “I’ve asked a number of people about that,” says Wayne King, former deputy chief of staff to Mark Meadows, who previously represented NC-11 before becoming Trump’s White House chief of staff. “I’ve not found one male yet that said they’ve ever worn women’s lingerie on vacation. I certainly never have.”

Edwards, meanwhile, “portrays himself as a grown up,” says Chris Cooper, professor of political science at Western Carolina University. Experts describe Edwards as a modest, religious conservative who has a reputation for staying out of the spotlight— which may have made him more appealing to North Carolina voters growing irritated by Cawthorn’s tendency to grab headlines. “In some ways,” Cooper says, Edwards’ success is “precisely because he’s not the star-power candidate.”

Cawthorn’s biggest strategic blunder, Cooper says, was creating an opportunity for Edwards and other qualified Republican candidates to get into the race at all. Edwards entered the race last November after Cawthorn announced he would run in a new district that he thought would be more conservative after redistricting lines were drawn. Then, in February, Cawthorn reneged on his choice and opted to run again in his current district after all, and had to face Edwards.

Ultimately, experts say, it wasn’t just the district flip-flopping, misdemeanors, or lewd acts caught on camera that cost Cawthorn his seat. It was all of those things playing out against the backdrop of Cawthorn’s lack of policy successes and constituent services in Congress.

After his 2020 election, Cawthorn boasted that he had big legislative plans to work across the aisle, bring down healthcare costs, and improve rural broadband. But shortly after he took office, he wrote a memo to Republican colleagues—which TIME obtained—saying he had built his congressional staff around “comms rather than legislation.” In other words, Cawthorn wanted to be a megaphone for the right, not a policymaker for it.

Zero of the 37 bills he introduced in the 117th Congress passed the House; only six of the 342 bills he co-sponsored became law. His constituents found him hard to reach; some of his district offices were often closed, requiring voters in his sprawling, mountainous district to travel far to get help. “This is not an urban area. It’s not easy to hop on a train and get across town,” says Cooper. “We’re talking hours, plural, to get to an office for many of his constituents. That has been a real black eye on his constituency service operation.”

And despite his stated staffing priorities, Cawthorn also lacked a strong communications strategy. One example was his response to an August 2021 flood that killed several people, injured others, and left thousands of people in Western North Carolina without power. “Cawthorn’s first public comments on the matter were around 24 hours after the Pigeon River reached initial flood levels,” Western North Carolina native Callie Pruett wrote in an op-ed in the North Carolina Mountaineer that ran with a headline calling Cawthorn’s silence an “unforgivable dereliction of duty.”

By the end of his brief tenure in Washington, Cawthorn had thoroughly alienated even members of his own party. When asked ahead of the primary if there were any local GOP leaders or Republican strategists who liked Cawthorn and hoped to see him re-elected, several state experts and politicians shared a similar answer: “I can’t think of anybody,” King said, “except the people that he’s paying.”

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The Work-From-Home Era Left Them Out

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Veronica wasn’t sure how the new disease she’d heard about on the news would affect her. It seemed unreal. She and her friends had just been joking about a game on the Google Play Store, in which the goal was to wipe out humanity with a deadly virus. “We joked about it. We were like … this is the apocalypse,” she said. “And then it happened.”

Veronica, who asked that her last name be withheld for privacy, is a 39-year-old Latina single mom who works as a part-time teller at a small bank for $15 an hour near a Gulf Coast city in Texas. She said she remembers feeling left out when she saw people take advantage of new opportunities to work from home. “I mean, we couldn’t do that. People wanted their money. They got scared. So we stayed at work. We didn’t have a choice.”

In March 2020, when Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster, the bank that Veronica works for emailed new directives to combat the pandemic. They locked their lobby doors, closed the building to visitors, used drive-through banking only and avoided transferring personnel from one branch location to another. The employees like Veronica who had to show up for work were encouraged to disinfect surfaces and wash their hands frequently. Soon, they’d be encouraged to wear masks.

“I felt safer with the doors closed, but I still didn’t want to come,” she said. Her branch operates with about two to three people in it at any given time, but during the pandemic’s beginning, she felt there were components to the work that some of them could have done from home at least sometimes to minimize their risk of exposure. “But they weren’t really offering anybody remote [work], except upper management,” she said.

The doors stayed locked until fall 2020, when patrons could once more enter the lobby for regular banking, as if the pandemic were over. Veronica said people were supposed to wear masks, but the bank didn’t enforce the state’s mandate. “And they kind of told us not to make people feel like they had to,” she said. “So we chose our battles.”

Veronica lives with her retired mother and eight-year-old son and was worried about bringing COVID-19 home to them. She also smokes and was afraid that the virus could make her very ill. But neither she nor her son became sick. Instead, during the first summer of the pandemic, her mother contracted COVID-19, possibly through a friend, and she was hospitalized the week after July 4. Veronica had only two weeks of paid leave to take care of her hospitalized mom before she had to return to the office. (Veronica says she tested positive after her mother returned from the hospital, then tested positive a second time, during the delta wave, but she said she never had symptoms.) When her mother came home in August, Veronica was left alone to handle child care, taking care of her mother and continuing to report to work. Her son stayed with his father during the week, and Veronica felt awful about it because he’d always been with her.. 

Trying to balance caring for her mother while her son still had remote and in-person classes was overwhelming. Veronica was also scared her son would bring the virus home, so she decided to withdraw him from school and try homeschooling him, thinking it would be easier to manage. “I didn’t see any other choice at that time, and I’m glad that I did,” she said. “I wouldn’t have made it out.” 

The weight of the pandemic’s changes and dangers have fallen unevenly on different groups in the United States, but women like Veronica are among those who shouldered the biggest burdens. Inequalities existed before COVID-19, of course, but in many ways they worsened over the past two years. One key division has been how our employers adapted to a deadly, rapidly spreading virus. For many workers, March 2020 marked the dawn of the work-from-home era, a change that seems mostly here to stay. But that’s not true for everyone.

The changes in remote work launched by the pandemic have been dramatic. The number of hours worked from home skyrocketed in 2020. An April 2021 working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research estimated that telework accounted for only 5 percent of paid work hours before the pandemic, but between April and December 2020, it was about 50 percent. Even now, more than two years after the pandemic began, many workplaces still don’t have their entire staff reporting to an office five days a week, and many are unlikely to do so ever again. According to a working paper from and OECD, the share of job postings on Indeed that mentioned remote work roughly tripled during the pandemic — and was still 7.5 percent of job postings in September 2021.

But most Americans don’t have jobs in which telework is an option. There are fields where that’s not surprising: hospital jobs, factory jobs, jobs at grocery stores and retail outlets, jobs delivering food, among numerous others. There are other jobs, too, in which workers might have been able to work from home, but their workplaces lacked the technology or resources.

And it is women who are overrepresented in these jobs.

In March, the Women & Politics Institute at American University and the Barbara Lee Family Foundation released a report showing that 49 percent of women likely to vote in the 2022 election felt burned out since the start of the pandemic. Moreover, among those making less than $50,000 a year, 67 percent said they were not working from home.

Grocery store cashiers wear protective equipment
For a lot of Americans, telework hasn’t been an option during the pandemic, and many of those jobs offer low wages.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

A recent report by the National Women’s Law Center had similar findings. Notably, it found that among adults making less than $15 an hour, which included 48 percent of women and 25 percent of men, women were more likely than men to say they’d lost or quit a job during the pandemic — 41 percent of women, 33 percent of men. Low-paid women were also twice as likely as women overall to have changed jobs during the pandemic.

I spoke to 19 women who fell into these categories and volunteered to be interviewed. Among them were women who chose to go into their offices because they felt safe with the precautions their companies had put in place, or because they felt it would be too hard to work from home, or because their duties made them key employees for their offices. But many others were required to report to an office if they wanted to keep their jobs. Some women felt that their safety concerns were respected, while others struggled to keep up with the latest public health guidance despite coworkers and bosses who did not. In general, the women whose experiences were better had workplaces that they felt prioritized their safety and were flexible and responsive to their needs.

Maria Saavedra Karlsson is a pediatrician who’d spent most of her career in children’s hospitals but began working at a nonprofit urgent-care clinic before the pandemic. Because she works with patients, she continued working in person. She told me about the eerie feeling of driving down empty highways that were normally crowded, but she said she knew her patients needed her. 

Many of the clinic’s clientele were low-income Latino residents of Southern California, where Karlsson lives. She said that a lot of the clinic’s adult patients as well as the parents of their child patients had continued to work through the pandemic, and that case counts at the clinic remained high during almost every wave.

Yet Karlsson said the clinic’s management, who did not work on site, were reluctant to expand telemedicine, which almost all the clinic’s doctors agreed was better for everyone. Patients also preferred telemedicine, Karlsson said. When doctors were sick or in quarantine, they’d see clients remotely via telehealth technology, and the doctors found they could easily see 35 to 40 patients a day, comparable with the amount they could see in person. Patients were also safer in their homes. 

Karlsson and her colleagues tried to convince the clinic’s management to do more telemedicine. “We tried to take a day off and actually just volunteer to do telehealth and show them how effective that was,” she said. “It didn’t work.” Instead, their patients had to come into the clinic, which she felt was unnecessary exposure for everyone. The stress of it encouraged Karlsson to leave the clinic and work as a telehealth doctor for an online company while she also started her own practice seeing patients in their homes, but she estimated that the move cost her about 75 percent of her income.

A sign reminds patients and visitors to wear a mask at a pediatric's office
Health clinics have used telemedicine to lower the chance of spreading COVID-19 in the office.

Emily Elconin / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Karlsson made a choice to change careers, but other women’s work hours were reduced because their workplace’s needs shifted, or they lost their jobs and have been unable to return to the workforce. That impacts not only their earnings now but also their futures, as many are struggling to build up retirements or recover income lost over the past two years. According to the Women & Politics Institute/Barbara Lee Family Foundation report, 55 percent of female likely voters making less than $50,000 a year said that their personal financial situation was worse now than before the pandemic, including 27 percent who said it was a lot worse.

Others I spoke with were transitioning to new jobs not just because of the stresses of in-person work during a pandemic, but also because they felt a lack of respect from their bosses. Taylor Anne Barriuso is a 29-year-old white woman and an academic advisor at a state college in Iowa, and she said her administration required advisors like her to return to campus in the fall semester of 2020. “There were very few students on campus, and the meetings with students were almost exclusively virtual at that point,” she said, adding that many professors and other higher-up administrators were able to choose whether they worked or taught remotely.

The fact that she had to return to in-person work early isn’t the only reason she plans to leave her job — she also wants to attend graduate school for speech-language pathology — but it was a factor. “It did contribute to kind of an overall feeling of … micromanagement. … There was a kind of general feeling of distrust that we were still doing our jobs from home,” she said.

Women with people-facing jobs often found themselves with extra duties. Lindsay Ellis, a 35-year-old Black woman who works as a fitness director at a gym in a city in North Carolina and, like many, was furloughed early in the pandemic. When her gym opened back up in November 2020 and she returned to work, she had to enforce mask mandates that were frequently changing and often challenged by her clients. Ellis quickly became aware of how much sweat and heavy breathing filled the cycling room where she teaches classes. 

Ellis thought she’d survive a COVID-19 infection but was worried about long COVID, which could impact her lung health for months and keep her from working. “I’m surrounded by hundreds of people a day, and members who are supposed to wear masks had quit [wearing them],” she said.

Overall, women staff most of the jobs that typically pay less than $10 an hour. One in three jobs held by women were deemed essential during the pandemic. And women, no matter their income level, were often left with the largest share of caregiving duties — whether it was taking care of elderly parents, children whose schools and daycares were shut down or, in many cases, both.

That said, as The New York Times found in a recent analysis, many mothers have remained in the workforce despite the challenges. There was one exception to this, however: mothers living with children under the age of five. Among them, the share who were in the workforce was down 4.2 percent between March 2019 and March 2022, indicating how uneven the burdens of the pandemic have been. 

“The pandemic has been horrible, but there’s a couple of good things in terms of flexibility and women in the workplace. … [Low-paid women] haven’t been able to take advantage of any of that,” said Betsy Fischer Martin, executive director of the Women & Politics Institute. “They have absorbed all of the regular negativity of the pandemic and had none of the upside to it.”

A mother works from home while her son attends school remotely
Many women have remained in or even joined the workforce during the pandemic. But for some, this has also meant balancing work with child care or care for elderly family members.

Jayme Gershen / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Indeed, those who are still working from home like it. In the beginning of the pandemic, most people who worked from home had to because their offices closed. But now, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, 76 percent of American workers whose workplace was open and who were mostly or totally working from home said that a major reason they were teleworking was because they preferred it.

Women’s financial worries haven’t eased up, either. In the Women & Politics Institute/Barbara Lee Family Foundation report, inflation was an important issue for female likely voters who made less than $50,000 a year. “In many cases, they are the primary earners and their home,” Fischer Martin said.

Workers are seeking better circumstances and better pay as well. Ellis, the fitness director, said her workplace was still short-staffed and they’d had trouble hiring more people to fill the positions. Ellis herself is an hourly worker and spent the first part of the pandemic not working, worried that her employer wouldn’t cover her insurance while she wasn’t earning a paycheck. (They covered her.) She said the starting pay for instructors at her facility is $10 an hour.

When the gym reopened in fall 2020, its class offerings were reduced because management couldn’t find enough instructors, and she said it’s gotten even worse as some of the bankers and others who had been working from home for two years have begun to return to their downtown offices. “A lot of my members … want more hours,” she said. “They want more amenities.” They also want to go completely back to the way things were pre-pandemic, she said.

She tells them she wants to offer them more hours and classes, but that the gym is struggling to hire staff. “And then the response is, ‘Yeah, you know, people just don’t want to work nowadays,’” she said. She suspects they expect her to agree with them, but she doesn’t. “People want to work,” she said. “They just want to get paid fairly for the work.”

For others, coming out of the pandemic will remain difficult because many key services haven’t returned to pre-pandemic levels. For example, the availability of child care remains about 12 percent lower than it was before 2020, according to Alycia Hardy, a senior policy analyst with The Center for Law and Social Policy. That reduction in supply can raise the cost of child care, which was already out of reach for many families in lower income brackets. Additionally, child care itself is often a low-paying profession, so many of the providers may be seeking work elsewhere for the reasons described by Ellis. “We’ve seen this devastation on this already fragile system,” Hardy says. “What that really translates into for families is that half a million families are without child care.”

Many of the women I spoke to had changed jobs or were planning to. Others had changed their relationship to work. But many also felt that people in their circumstances needed more support. In the Women & Politics Institute/Barbara Lee Family Foundation report, a strong majority of women likely to vote in the 2022 midterms thought Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act should be expanded. 

But if Congress’s failure to extend the expanded child tax credit — which may have been keeping 3.7 million children out of poverty — is any indication, we’re unlikely to see broad changes anytime soon.

Veronica, the bank teller, wants to make changes in her own life. Before the pandemic, she began working at the bank part-time so that she could take a course to become a court reporter and move into a better-paying field. But when the course shifted online, she felt she wasn’t able to learn as much as she had in the classroom. The extra burdens of her sick mother and homeschooled son made it untenable to balance her coursework and her job. 

She wants to go back, though. She thinks it’s time for a career change. “It feels like I’m fighting for just $15 an hour,” she said. “It doesn’t feel fair, you know, after giving eight years to this place.”

She said she thinks there are more people in her position — people who’ve had some college but haven’t finished, who know they have skills but feel they’re undervalued in the workplace and want more flexibility in their jobs. “I feel like a lot of people are in my position,” she said. “They want the same thing. They wanted to feel valued.”

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