Five Best Thursday Columns

John Cassidy on Janet Yellen's awkward first press conference, Owen Jones on a misguided poster by the U.K.'s Conservative Party, Katie McDonough on the right's ideal modern woman, E.J. Dionne, Jr. on a possible consensus on Crimea, Kimberly Scott considers how schools discourage girls from pursuing STEM subjects. 

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John Cassidy at The New Yorker on Janet Yellen’s awkward first press conference. “On Wednesday, at her first press conference as chairwoman of the Fed, Yellen had an awkward time, conveying a message that she may well not have intended to, and spooking the markets. This may not be a big deal, but it did indicate some of the challenges Yellen faces in extricating the Fed from the emergency policy actions it has taken during the past five years,” Cassidy writes. “There’s always a lot of uncertainty—and provisional statements, which are heavily qualified, can be seized upon as firm expressions of policy. Welcome to the hot seat, Madame Chair."

Owen Jones at The Guardian on a misguided poster by the U.K.’s Conservative Party. “It is difficult to know where to begin with this poster: it is an #epicfail, to use the appropriate Twitter lingo. The suggestion that cutting bingo tax and beer duty will 'help hardworking people do more of the things they enjoy' is so patronising it looks like a crude attempt at satire: indeed, the only comfort on offer for the Tories is that some social media users genuinely believed it was a parody,” Jones writes. “The fatal pronoun is 'they': it looks like a conscious attempt by well-heeled Tories to distance themselves from the great unwashed, who are presumably all getting hammered in bingo halls. They will have sore heads this morning: not from overdoing the beer and bingo, but from slamming their heads against tables.”

Katie McDonough at Salon on the right’s ideal modern woman. “For those women who haven’t already been won over by the new ads featuring super-cool guys wearing leather jackets and practical ladies exercising in the woods, Republicans have another way to appeal to their modern sensibilities: trumped-up rhetoric about how powerful and unstoppable women are in achieving anything they set their minds to — all without any help from the stupid government!” McDonough writes. “This scam about the government staying out of women’s business becomes all the more absurd when you consider just how enamored the GOP is of forcing the state into women’s personal lives.”

E.J. Dionne, Jr. at The Washington Post on a possible consensus on Crimea. “Vladimir Putin’s grab of Crimea has exposed the paradoxes in U.S. attitudes toward foreign policy. Congress has been unusually united in condemning the Russian leader’s aggression and calling for his isolation. On the other hand, a Pew Research Center poll found that by a margin of 56 percent to 29 percent, Americans said it was more important that the United States 'not get too involved' in the Ukrainian situation than to 'take a firm stand against Russian actions,' Dionne Jr. writes. “Thus the final paradox: Putin has given Obama the opportunity to begin rebuilding this consensus — if the president decides to try, and if his critics are willing to help him do it.”

Kimberly Scott at Slate on how schools discourage girls from pursuing STEM subjects. “As research demonstrates, structural barriers often prevent individuals from historically marginalized groups from achieving their full potential. Schools continue to 'code and treat': African-American girls as hyperagressive and hypersexualized; Latina girls as destined for nothing more than teen pregnancy; and Native American girls as more likely to become alcoholics than anything else. When economically disadvantaged schools do offer advanced computer science courses, girls are too often discouraged by their male counterparts and teachers from enrolling in such 'difficult' courses, UCLA’s Jane Margolis has demonstrated,” Scott writes. “We shouldn’t assume that some girls can be taught to code, create simulations, and develop complex cities in virtual spaces. They all can, and they can do it while becoming change agents at the same time.”

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.