Why Dr. Dre’s Abuse of Women Is Catching Up With Him Now

The journalist Dee Barnes’s recollection of the time when Dr. Dre beat her—and of its aftermath, and of her feelings about its omission from Straight Outta Compton—is one of the best essays to be published this year. You can read it at Gawker. Some of the details Barnes presents, especially about the physical, mental, and career effects of being attacked by one of the biggest names in music, are wrenching. When I get migraines, my head does ring and it hurts, exactly in the same spot every time where he smashed my head against the wall,” she writes. “People have accused me of holding onto the past; I’m not holding onto the past. I have a souvenir that I never wanted. The past holds onto me.”

Straight Outta Suburbia

None of the fundamental details of the story are new to the world, nor even contested. Barnes was the host of a hip-hop television show called Pump It Up; her interview with Ice Cube in 1990 so angered his former bandmates in N.W.A. that Dre attacked Barnes in a nightclub bathroom. He pled no contest to assault and settled her civil suit against him out of court. Over the years, he and the others in N.W.A. have blithely acknowledged what happened, and recently in Rolling Stone, Dre issued a vague statement of regret when asked about violence against women: “I made some fucking horrible mistakes in my life.”

If these accusations have been in the public domain for years, then why do they seem to be gaining such wide attention—check the Google News results on the topic—now? The obvious answer is in Straight Outta Compton, the N.W.A. biopic that’s currently ruling the box office. Co-produced by Dre, Ice Cube, and Eazy-E’s widow Tomica Woods-Wright, it purports to be an authentic look at the rise of gangsta rap, and indeed does a powerful job portraying the environments that the band members rose from, the real-world frustration that fed into their incendiary lyrics, the free-spirited collaboration behind the music, the exact causes of N.W.A.’s break-up. But as with many biopics about the living and the recently deceased, the involvement of people so close to the story in the creation of the film means that the effort can’t entirely be trusted—there are agendas at play. (The film’s director, F. Gary Gray, according to Barnes, actually worked as a cameraman for the fateful interview she did with Ice Cube.)

The omission of any mention of violence toward women is a particularly potent example of the biopic dilemma, because it connects to the queasiest part of the legacy of N.W.A. Misogyny has always been part of popular music, whether it’s in vaudeville or rock and roll or even today’s booming electronic-dance scene. But the social conditions gangsta rap rose from—conditions created by a long history of oppression toward minority communities—caused it to make forceful, explicit expressions of contempt toward women fashionable in a way they had never been before. And, it turns out, those expressions of contempt were mirrored in some of the musicians’ behavior. Barnes’s essay points out that for all the political and social weight that N.W.A.’s music carried, it takes a some cognitive dissonance to buy the film’s depiction of its subjects as unambiguously heroic:

Dre, who executive produced the movie along with his former groupmate Ice Cube, should have owned up to the time he punched his labelmate Tairrie B twice at a Grammys party in 1990. He should have owned up to the black eyes and scars he gave to his collaborator Michel’le. And he should have owned up to what he did to me. That’s reality. That’s reality rap. In his lyrics, Dre made hyperbolic claims about all these heinous things he did to women. But then he went out and actually violated women. Straight Outta Compton would have you believe that he didn’t really do that. It doesn’t add up. […] They’re trying to stay hard, and look like good guys.

Of course, history is littered with examples of famous men whose reputations and status took little or no long-term damage after they were accused of hurting women. And though it doesn’t appear Dre has directly apologized to Barnes or his other female victims personally, he does sound repentant lately: “It was really fucked up. But I paid for those mistakes, and there’s no way in hell that I will ever make another mistake like that again,” he told Rolling Stone. But all the attention being paid to stories like Barnes’s in the year of the Cosby women suggests that Straight Outta Compton may, in addition to educating a wide audience about N.W.A.’s vital achievements, have an unintended consequence. By trying to omit part of the story, it made it bigger.

Why Flibanserin Is Not the ‘Female Viagra’


The drug’s controversial approval yesterday comes on the heels of two previous unsuccessful attempts, lingering questions about safety, and uncertainty about whether or not it really works.

Allen G. Breed / AP

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After three applications, ownership by two drug companies, and one successful lobbying campaign, the female sexual-dysfunction drug flibanserin was approved yesterday by the Food and Drug Administration.

Flibanserin, which will be sold under the brand name Addyi, has been billed as a remedy for women with Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder, defined as “persistently or recurrently deficient (or absent) sexual fantasies and desire for sexual activity” in either gender.

It’s also been rejected twice, for concerns that lingered even after an FDA advisory committee voted 18-6 in June to recommend approval. The drug has an effectiveness rate of somewhere between 8 and 13 percent, and can cause side effects like fainting, dizziness, and low blood pressure, many of which were found to be exacerbated by alcohol and hormonal contraception. When it comes to market in October, Addyi’s label will carry a warning that it can’t be taken with alcohol.  (And in the alcohol-safety study submitted to the FDA, oddly, 23 of the 25 participants were men, meaning the effects of drinking while on the drug still aren’t fully understood for the women who will be taking it.)

Even so, it’s been hailed by supporters as a step towards gender equality in a previously overlooked area. “The FDA has approved 26 drugs marketed for the treatment of male sexual dysfunctions, compared to zero [now one] to address the most common form of female sexual dysfunction,” reads the website for Even the Score, a coalition of non-profits and health-care companies—including Sprout Pharmaceuticals, which makes flibanserin—that formed in 2013 to lobby for the drug’s approval.

None of those 26 drugs, though, has the same purpose as flibanserin. Viagra and its ilk enhance physical arousal; despite its nickname as the “pink Viagra,” flibanserin was developed to enhance desire. Viagra is taken before sex and increases blood flow to the genitals; flibanserin is supposed to be taken daily and aims further north, changing the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain.

Do Women Need Their Own Viagra?

The comparisons to Viagra, and the bumpy road to approval, have raised complicated questions about the nature of female desire, sexism in drug research, and what ought to qualify as a disorder.

The drug’s approval has also raised a simpler question: What changed, exactly, between those two rejections and last night?

The most obvious answer is good public relations. Even the Score, which launched in 2013, has framed the issue as one of “women’s sexual health equity.” The group notes on its site that the World Health Organization considers “[pursuit of] a satisfying, safe and pleasurable sexual life” to be a human right, and has successfully solicited letters of support to the FDA from the editor of The Journal of Sexual Medicine, the president of the National Organization for Women, and members of Congress.

In an June editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association, three members of the FDA’s June advisory committee wrote of Even the Score: “Although flibanserin is not the first product to be supported by a consumer advocacy group [that is] in turn supported by pharmaceutical manufacturers, claims of gender bias regarding the FDA’s regulation have been particularly noteworthy, as have the extent of advocacy efforts.”

But there’s another answer, too: Between the two rejections and the approval, the benchmark for success has changed.

A highlights-only timeline of the drug’s rocky history looks like this: Flibanserin was originally developed as an antidepressant. After initial trials found it to be ineffective, it was redirected as a remedy for low female desire. The pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim submitted the drug for approval in 2010, though the agency rejected the application, noting that it didn’t seem to work very well for its new purpose, either. Sprout acquired the drug in 2011 and saw another rejection in 2013; this time, the FDA asked for additional safety studies and called for an advisory committee to investigate whether the risks outweighed the modest benefits.

Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI), a tool that assigns respondents a sexual-function score based on their sexual activity over the month leading up to the survey. Unlike the digital diaries, the FSFI asked participants to recall desire from the past four weeks, rather than the past day. Also unlike with the digital diaries, this measure showed a difference between flibanserin and placebos.

When Sprout took over the development of flibanserin from BI in 2011, it conducted one more efficacy study of its own, but reshuffled the criteria. The new trial kept the number of satisfying sexual experiences as one primary endpoint, but this time around, participants weren’t asked to record their daily levels of desire; instead, the study used the FSFI—which had previously shown favorable results—as its other main measure.

Meanwhile, outside of the FDA, Sprout, and Even the Score, a third thing has changed: Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD), the condition that flibanserin was developed to treat, is no longer listed by the American Psychiatric Association as its own disorder.

At the time that Spout acquired flibanersin, the most recent edition of the DSM was the DSM-IV, which drew a distinction between problems with female desire and problems with arousal. HSDD was its own entry; separately, Female Sexual Arousal Disorder was defined as “persistent or recurrent inability to attain, or to maintain until completion of the sexual activity, an adequate lubrication swelling response of sexual excitement.”

But in the DSM-V, published in 2013, the two were combined into one condition, “Female Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder.”

“Research suggests that sexual response is not always a linear, uniform process,” the APA wrote in an explanation of the changes, “and that the distinction between certain phases (e.g., desire and arousal) may be artificial”— a change that complicates the already-complicated arguments for and against the little pink pill.

Beyoncé and the Politics of Stringy Hair


The world’s most powerful celebrity is gracing the cover of Vogue with her hair looking distinctly un-pretty. That’s a pretty great thing.


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What is going on with that Beyoncé image in Vogue’s September issue? The cover’s background is not an actual background so much as, it would seem, Photoshop shade #858674; its cover line—“Just B,” with “Beyoncé” beneath it—seems both redundant and oxymoronic; and, worst of all, Beyoncé’s nose has been contoured into Michael Jacksonian proportions—a move that is sadly not new in fashion photography, but that is especially troubling given that Beyoncé is only the third black woman, after Naomi Campbell in 1989 and Halle Berry in 2010, to grace the cover of that biggest of Vogue issues.

Why Fashion Magazines Matter

There is, however, one other thing that is striking about the cover: Beyoncé’s hair. That hair! That decidedly non-fierce hair! Which is, here, a flat shade of brown, and plainly parted, and notably stringy—not yeah-I-just-got-back-from-a-dip-in-the-Mediterranean stringy, but yeah-I-haven’t-washed-my-hair-in-like-three-weeks stringy. “Drunk in Love” stringy. Beyoncé’s Hair—it has traditionally deserved its own category—has gone through many iterations over the years, featuring regular variations of color and cut and texture and even more regular experimentations with feathering and layering and extensioning and bobbing and beehiving and curling and crimping and flat-ironing and cornrowing and crown-bunning and top-knotting and, occasionally, simultaneous combinations of all of the above.

And here is that hair, that iconic and chameleon-like hair, looking notably, even aggressively … un-done. Here is Beyoncé, trading in her normally buoyant locks for a look that, via salt water and/or olive oil and/or mousse and/or gel, is not so much #iwokeuplikethis as #iflattenedmyhairlikethis. Here is Vogue, in its September Issue—with its declaration that Beyoncé is one of THE RULE-BREAKERS DEFINING THE WAY WE DRESS NOW—suggesting that “the way we dress now” involves fabulous Marc Jacobs clothes and fabulously impeccable makeup and, finally, a fabulously un-fabulous hairdo. A hairdo that takes those complaints people sent to the FCC after last year’s Grammys—“Her hair was wet,” one viewer groused—and turns them into Fashion.

You could say on the one hand that, beauty trends being what they are, the Un-Done Hairdo is Vogue’s logical reaction—a correction, even—to the trends that the magazine itself, with its promises of accessible allure, helped to bring about. Hair that is done—whether the doneness involves bigness or braids or beachiness or curliness or stick-straightness, has become (somewhat) democratized. The rise of commercial outfits like DryBar and Blo—businesses that offer blowouts at, usually, $30 to $40 a pop, and that throwback to previous generations’ everyday reliance on beauty salons—have exacerbated the atavistic assumption that “done” hair is a symbol, like “done” makeup and manicured nails, of one’s status, emotionally and economically. Us Weekly and Pinterest and Kim Kardashian and The Bachelor have helped to do the same. They have, together, created an arid assumption that a woman’s hair should be, whatever else it is, purposeful. It should reflect effort. The Protestant ethic, only with Pantene.  

It’s an assumption that I can say, being both a woman and a haver of hair, is fairly terrible. The makeup tax applies to one’s hair, too—the conditioning, the drying, the styling, the tools and time required of all those things. Whereas guys, even with a new emphasis on dude-focused styling products, pretty much wash and go. Add to that the fact that hair is racially fraught (see this great Collier Meyerson video directed at “white people” and tellingly titled “Stop Touching My Hair”), and hair becomes not just a beauty thing, but also a feminist thing and a class thing and a race thing—much more even than fashion and makeup and all the other elements that constitute a Vogue cover. Hair is, along with so much else, political.

And here is the most powerful female celebrity on the planet, on the cover of the biggest issue of what is arguably the world’s most important fashion magazine, seeming to push back against all that. Bey and Vogue are not necessarily recommending that the Normals of the world start rocking stringy hair. What they are doing, though, is what all high fashion will, in the end: They’re setting a new benchmark. They’re suggesting that unkempt hair, Cerulean sweater-style, can and maybe even should trickle down to the habits of Vogue’s readers and admirers and newsstand-passersby. They’re making a political statement disguised as an aesthetic one. Here is Beyoncé, whose brand is strong enough to withstand being photographed with stringy hair, suggesting that, for the rest of us, the best hairdos might be the ones that don’t require all the doing.

The Bandage Dress and the ‘Voluptuous’ Woman


A director at the fashion brand Hervé Léger has served up yet another reminder of the hostility fashion houses can hold for the people who wear their creations.

A model presents a creation from the Hervé Léger by Max Azria Fall/Winter 2011 collection at New York Fashion Week. Brendan McDermid / Reuters

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If you have not, yourself, worn a bandage dress, you have probably seen a bandage dress—on a celebrity, on a reality TV character, on a model, in a magazine, in the wild. The clingy dress, most iconically associated with the designer Hervé Léger—composed of Spandex strips sewn together, strategically, to smooth and mold a woman’s body—represents, regardless of its color or cut or length, a marriage of secrets and openness. It shapes openly and unapologetically, undergarment and garment fused into one. In that, the bandage dress acknowledges the obvious: that women have not just “curves,” the geometric phenomenon, but flesh, the human one. The dress would look terrible on a mannequin; it can look wonderful, however, on an actual woman, warm and real and voluminous. Whether you like the bandage dress or not, as a style or as a cultural phenomenon, there’s something quite productive about that fact.

So it was frustrating when, over the weekend, Patrick Couderc, the U.K. managing director of Hervé Léger, was quoted condemning “voluptuous” women for wearing the label’s body-hugging creations. Women with “very prominent hips and a very flat chest,” Couderc said, should not wear the brand’s iconic dresses. (Nor, he added, should lesbians—who, he claimed, “would want to be rather butch and leisurely.”)

In other words: To wear a bandage dress, according to a man charged with marketing bandage dresses, you have to have curves, but not too many of them. You have to have flesh, but for heaven’s sake, not too much of it.

The Rise of the Totally Transparent Bridal Gown

Bandage dresses first became popular in the early 1980s, when the “King of Cling” Azzedine Alaia introduced them, and ascended again in the mid-’80s, when Léger—the designer most often given credit for bringing them into the mainstream—launched a new line. They were brought back into style in 2007, when the BCBG Max Azria Group, which bought the Hervé Léger brand in 1998, reintroduced the iconic dresses in a series of new colors and patterns and shapes. The bandage dresses, and the body-con trend they brought about, have proven enduring, not just on runways and red carpets, but on the street. They are both a cause and a result of a cultural period that has made a point of emphasizing, rather than downplaying, womens curves.

So the bandage dress is a story of high fashion distilled into everyday style—and, by extension, the story of fashion’s ability to flatten and spread itself across the culture. What happens on the runways of New York and Paris will, if a design has commercial and cultural appeal, manifest in magazines and movies and TV, quickly trickling down to the sales floors of Neiman Marcus and Macy’s and Zara and Forever 21. That flattening can take place with body-con dresses or with pretty much anything else in fashion. And it means that trends, if people respond to them, can be had across sizes. They can be had across price points. They can be worn by large people and small people and straight people and gay people—by anyone, basically, who decides to wear them.

Which also means: Their designs can’t be patented. The trends they inspire can’t be owned. Fashion creators can’t decide how, ultimately, their clothes will be adopted by the large collective of individuals who have such a fraught relationship with the high-end houses: “everyday people.”

Couderc’s comments are a reminder, though, of how often fashion creators resist all that, and of how much of the high-end stuff is still dictated by designers’ fascination with tall, skinny women. Most of which is, still—still!—designed for women who have very little flesh. (On Project Runway, a show that pays lip service to fashion’s democratization, the challenges that inspire the most complaints from the designer-contestants are not the ones that ask them to construct clothes out of corn husks/seat belts/pet-care products; they’re the ones that ask them to design clothes for “everyday women” and their inconvenient curves.) “Bodycon,” as a style, is short for “body conscious,” but Couderc seems to want to amend that to “body self-conscious.” His comments speak to an enduring, and frustrating, reality about the relationship between women and the clothes they put on every day: that fashion isn’t, at the top, meant for them. That designers can be not just forgetful of the women who ultimately buy their work, but resentful of them.

The Midwest, Home of the Supermodel


What a scout’s success in the Heartland says about the modeling industry

Illinois native Karlie Kloss poses for photographers. Gonzalo Fuentes / Reuters

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Jeff and Mary Clarke describe themselves as being “like stalkers, but the good kind.” They’re scouts who roam suburban malls and fast-food joints in search of teenagers who might have what it takes to become high-fashion models.

If you live in somewhere in the Central time zone and have the physique of a pipe cleaner, there’s a chance the Clarkes might approach you while you’re ordering a Blizzard and ask, “Have you ever thought about being a model?”

When I interviewed Mary Clarke recently, one of the things that surprised me about her work is where it’s based. I had assumed any serious person connected to the modeling industry would plant themselves in a fashion mecca like New York or Los Angeles.

Instead, the Clarkes, who are married, operate out of Dardenne Prairie, Missouri, a small town about 40 minutes west of St. Louis. Their annual scouting trips center on Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois.

They’re also undeniably successful. In 2005, they saw a 13-year-old named Karlie Kloss at a charity fashion show in St. Louis. Kloss, now 23, was one of eight Victoria’s Secret angels until recently. A few years later, they spotted a 14-year-old anime fan, Grace Hartzel, at a St. Louis Cheesecake Factory. Last year, Hartzel opened and closed a Yves Saint Laurent show.

The Makeup Tax

But that’s nothing compared to one of Mary Clarke’s earlier finds. In 1997, she was at a bar near the University of Iowa when she approached a biochemical engineering student named Chris Kutcher and convinced him to give modeling a shot. He would end up using his middle name, Ashton, professionally.

So why has flyover country been so fruitful for the Clarkes? It boils down to two secret ingredients of the modeling business: plenty of height, and just the right amount of competition.

The fashion world has become more open to models of different sizes and ethnicities in recent years, but it still clings to one, unshakable standard: You have to be tall. Female models on the “short side,” Clarke says, are still at least five-foot-nine.

One theory, which Clarke heard from a fellow scout, is that the Midwest is home to a disproportionate number of people whose ancestors were the vertically gifted Northern Europeans.

“I remember [this scout] telling me that there’s a lot of Scandinavian blood,” in the region, Clarke said. “There’s a lot of height in Iowa in particular.”

There’s no definitive model database, but even this Wikipedia list tallies a surprising number of models from Illinois, Minnesota, and Ohio. Aside from Clarke’s roster, other renowned Heartland hotties include Erin Heatherton, Lindsey Wixson, and the DeKalb, Illinois, native Cindy Crawford. (Florida seems to be another model incubator. I welcome armchair hypotheses about that one.)

The scout’s Scandinavian theory is plausible. The Swedish and Norwegian immigrants who came to the U.S. in the late 19th century settled mainly in Iowa, Minnesota, the Dakotas, and Wisconsin. Countries like Norway, Sweden, Germany, and Denmark have minted some of the tallest people in the world for centuries. Some researchers refer to this as the “North-South gradient,” with people living in the colder European countries having, on average, a couple inches on the people living in warmer ones.

According to the census, 31 percent of Scandinavian-Americans live in the Midwest, though even greater numbers live in western states. The Midwest is, however, home to the largest percentage of Americans whose ancestors were Dutch, another famously lanky people.


But there’s another reason why the Clarkes and other scouts prowl the Aeropostales of Omaha in search of fresh faces. For every client that strikes it big, scouts receive a finder’s fee. Or, depending on the arrangement, they might earn a percentage of each job the model books. That means it behooves scouts to work where there isn’t much competition—like the vast, open plains—and to seek out girls and boys who aren’t already tied to a modeling agency.

“Sometimes several scouts might find one model and they all end up trying to lure her over, which becomes a hassle,” said Ashley Mears, a sociologist who has studied the modeling industry and was a model herself.

Larger cities are already too crammed with scouts. The types of youths the Clarkes would consider recruiting from the sidewalks of New York or Los Angeles are likely already modeling—or have considered and decided against it. Whereas in Missouri, “nine times out of 10, they’ve never thought about it before,” Clarke explained.

Of course, Midwesterners don’t have the modeling market cornered. Scouts are everywhere, flocking to remote corners of South America, Kenya, and Siberia in search of tall, thin people.

“Scouts are going to places that they perceive as economically underdeveloped,” Mears explained. “They’ll go into Eastern Europe … or Brazil”—places where statuesque teens are likely to see modeling as a promising ticket.

But why brave a February modeling convention in Novosibirsk when you could—as the Clarkes did successfully a few years ago—just flag down a hunk as he’s pumping gas in Hannibal, Missouri?