The XX Factor
What Women Really Think

Feb. 3 2016 1:01 PM

CDC Says Women Shouldn’t Drink Unless They’re on Birth Control. Is It Drunk?!?

A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report recommends that women of childbearing age who are sexually active and not using birth control stop drinking alcohol altogether. “The risk is real. Why take the chance?” the CDC’s principal deputy director says in the press release accompanying the report.

The agency’s logic is that about half of all American pregnancies are unplanned, and many women don’t know they’re pregnant for the first month or so. But it’s the kind of swath-yourself-in-bubble-wrap thinking that has turned modern pregnancy into a nine-month slog of joyless paranoia.

The CDC has been a leader in the better-safe-than-sorry school of pregnancy care for at least a decade now. A 2006 report recommended that all women between menses and menopause should take folic acid, avoid smoking, and maintain a healthy weight to prepare for healthy pregnancies, just in case. Critics at the time accused the government of viewing millions of women as “pre-pregnant,” regardless of whether they were planning on having babies soon, or ever.

The latest recommendation to avoid alcohol completely is obviously out of step with the way many “pre-pregnant” people live their lives. (Imagine how the birth rate would drop if women never took a sip.) But unlike the well-tested advice to take folic acid, it is also unnecessarily restrictive of women who are pregnant or trying to be.

The CDC’s recommendation is also out of step with the way many women already conduct their pregnancies. A 2012 report from the agency itself found that older and more educated women were significantly likelier to drink during pregnancy than younger, less-educated women are. And many doctors seem perfectly comfortable with moderate alcohol consumption in the late stages of pregnancy. When I told my doctor that I was enjoying a glass of wine per week in my third trimester, she didn’t bat an eye.

With the obligatory caveat that heavy drinking in pregnancy can be extremely damaging, the commonly repeated notion that there is “no known safe amount of alcohol” for pregnant women is seriously misleading. As the economist Emily Oster pointed out in her 2013 book Expecting Better, there is also no “proven safe” level of Tylenol or caffeine, and yet both are fine in moderation during pregnancy. Oster pored through reams of research on alcohol and pregnancy for her book and concluded that there is simply no scientific evidence that light drinking during pregnancy impacts a baby’s health. (In one frequently cited 2001 study that suggested light drinking in pregnancy increases the chances of a child displaying aggressive behaviors, the drinkers were also significantly likelier to have taken cocaine during pregnancy.)

The backlash to this dose of sanity was swift and severe, as Oster detailed in Slate, but I recommend her sanity-preserving book to any pregnant woman overwhelmed by advice like the CDC’s. What the heck, I’ll go CDC-style and recommend it to anyone who could possibly ever become pregnant, at any point in the future, no matter how small the odds. Why take the chance?

Feb. 3 2016 9:31 AM

Reese Witherspoon’s Next Project Exemplifies a Certain Brand of 1-Percenter Feminism

On a December night, a high-powered Wall Street financier shows up at a holiday shindig to make small talk with colleagues who go by sobriquets like “Ballsy” and “King.” She stashes her three children’s Christmas presents in a corner, hoping to avoid reminding anyone that she doubles as a mom. A few hours later, she emerges from the bathroom to find that the men have decapitated her daughter’s new Barbie and are using her head as a miniature football.

This is the first scene of Maureen Sherry’s Opening Belle, the new Wall Street comedy set in the runup to the 2008 financial crisis; Reese Witherspoon has already made plans to star in a movie based on the novel. Subtlety is not the book’s primary register; workplace sexism is its foremost theme. Since Sherry spent over a decade at the investment bank Bear Stearns, it’s hard to know whether some of the most over-the-top displays of what Sherry’s protagonist terms “Neanderthal behavior” are fiction or memoir. (In a recent opinion piece in the New York Times, Sherry recounted the time a male colleague stole her breast milk out of the office fridge and drank it on a dare.) Either way, it’s the first of the string of narratives set in and around the financial crisis—most recently the Oscar-nominated film The Big Short—to frame its story through a female perspective.

The book exemplifies a brand of 1-percenter feminism; protagonist Isabelle Cassidy does find out her nanny has taken on a mortgage she can’t afford, but the ethics of Isabelle’s profession are an afterthought in what is primarily a comedy. According to the Times, Sherry decided Isabelle should have an income of roughly $3 million a year—far less, it’s implied, than that of her own family—because she “wanted her to be relatable.” It seems unlikely that relatable would be the word that occurs to most readers (and eventually, filmgoers).

The most appealing parts of the book portray an uneasy alliance between Isabelle and the other women in her office, who come together in what they call the “Glass Ceiling Club” to discuss and ultimately take on the patriarchal powers that be. These are not feel-good scenes of a rising tide that lifts all boats but rather prickly and sometimes duplicitous negotiations between characters who want to advance their collective without sacrificing anything themselves. In an early scene, Isabelle is nearly kicked out of the club by a woman whom she recruited to her company and lied to about the sexist culture of the place. “Belle is a good salesperson, but a lousy friend,” the woman says. At least we know this about Witherspoon’s upcoming movie: It will pass the Bechdel test. 

Feb. 2 2016 5:56 PM

Lady Gaga Will Perform a Tribute to David Bowie at the Grammys. Ugh.

Lady Gaga will perform a solo tribute to David Bowie at the Feb. 15 Grammy Awards, according to a report from the New York Times. Grammys producer Ken Ehrlich says Gaga was already slated to sing during the ceremony, and though after Bowie’s death in January many other musicians asked for a shot at a Bowie tribute, Ehrlich decided a three-to-four-song Gaga medley would be best.

What a shame. Bowie’s dazzling, decades-long career and ever-evolving persona changed the culture forever; his fans would be hard-pressed to deem any single performer worthy of his final tribute at the most-watched music event of the year. Tributes are inevitable and necessary—the Kennedy Center Honors ceremony, for example, brings contemporary musicians together for live musical tributes to its medal recipients each year, and they’re usually beautiful and heartfelt. But posthumous celebrations are a taller, and tougher, order. Tributes feel less like a definitive statement when the honored party still walks the earth.

And Gaga is a particularly disappointing choice for such a visible tribute to the beloved pop icon, despite her stated adulation of his work and persona. "When I fell in love with David Bowie, when I was living on the Lower East Side, I always felt that his glamour was something he was using to express a message to people that was very healing for their souls,” Gaga told the Hollywood Reporter just before Bowie’s death. “He is a true, true artist and I don't know if I ever went, 'Oh, I'm going to be that way like this,' or if I arrived upon it slowly, realizing it was my calling and that's what drew me to him.” She continued: "I thought it was interesting to dress like a fashionista and kind of envelope myself in this plastic image and sing things that are very heartfelt and wrap them up in something kind of not heartfelt.” Gaga is a savvy businessperson and a talented singer; she has successfully navigated the global music economy and given us a few genuinely inventive pieces of art. But she is not, however she might like to style herself, this generation’s answer to David Bowie.

It’s true that both Gaga and Bowie have played with gender in exhilarating ways. Gaga has endured Gawker-fueled rumors that she was born male, and, like Bowie, embraced masculine and feminine tropes with equal fervor in her early days in the spotlight. Lindsay Zoladz writes of Gaga's early career:

When it came to female pop stars, we were still reeling from the Britney-Christina-Jessica era, during which the only acceptable kind of femininity that presented itself was au naturel—eternally sun-kissed and low-cut-jean ready and never having anything too weird or opinionated to say. In this world, Gaga’s take on femininity—all boxy silhouettes, cyborgian dance moves, and grand, Warholian pronouncements—was, to many, utterly illegible. “I’m not going to make a guy drool the way a Britney video does,” she said in an early interview. “[W]hat I do is so extreme. It’s meant to make guys think: I don’t know if this is sexy or just weird.

But Gaga’s musical nods to social justice themes (“Born This Way,” “Til It Happens To You”) have been heavy-handed; her social media advocacy has been muddled. And one of her most popular anthems, “Born This Way,” advanced a reductive, enduring narrative around gay identities—as opposed to Bowie, who opened new avenues for sexuality and gender expression that didn’t revert to a birth-based biological imperative.

More importantly, her early boundary-pushing output has often been mistaken for a cultural revolution. As Nathan Heller wrote in Slate in 2011, “For all of her attention-getting gambits [and] gnomic utterances…Gaga is basically a totem of the cultural establishment, an agent of the reliable old forms more than radical new ones. She claims to be a ‘monster,’ but she's in fact pop's leading conservative talent.” Much of Gaga’s appeal used to be based on pure shock; now it’s predicated on the whiplash she orchestrated to elicit some kind of surprise from her audiences at the revelation that she can “actually” sing, all while playing “Imagine” at athletic competitions and winning TV awards looking like a Marilyn Monroe double.

This isn't an argument for some other performer to take over the tribute. None of the other scheduled Grammy performers— Adele, Kendrick Lamar, the Weeknd, Carrie Underwood, Sam Hunt—would make a better solo Bowie tribute, because Bowie’s legend is greater than the sum of its parts. A few covers of his songs, which must either try to imitate or transform his talents, will never feel sufficient. So how to enact a proper posthumous homage? David Bowie lived a dozen lives in his career. Just show them to us in a humble, respectful montage.

Feb. 2 2016 4:32 PM

Can Social Media Be Blamed for the Murder of a 13-Year-Old Girl?

Last week the body of Nicole Madison Lovell, a 13-year-old girl from Blacksburg, Virginia, was discovered near the Virginia–North Carolina state line. Police have since arrested two engineering students at nearby Virginia Tech, David Eisenhauer, 18, and Natalie M. Keepers, 19, for the murder. Lovell’s mother told police that she believes Eisenhauer met Lovell through social media, and Lovell’s eight-year-old neighbors say that she showed them texts she had exchanged, using the mobile instant-messaging app Kik, with an 18-year-old about plans for an evening meeting hours before she disappeared.

According to news reports, Lovell had a disturbing history with social media. Friends and family say she was bullied in person and online, and at the beginning of the year she posted a short message on a Facebook group named “Teen Dating and Flirting,” asking members whether she was “Cute or nah.” Over 300 people commented, and, as to be expected, not all were positive. (The post appears to have been taken down.) A quick tour of “Teen Dating and Flirting” reveals that the group is not limited to teens. I quickly found a number of adult men; there was one guy who graduated in 1990 who told a teenage girl that she had a “nice ass” and a gray-haired man requesting cleavage shots. According to the Facebook page Justice for Children Without Voices, Facebook is shutting down “Teen Dating and Flirting” in response to Lovell’s murder.

While we don’t yet know what motivated Eisenhauer and Keepers to possibly kill Lovell, we do know that social media played a role. In a story in today’s New York Times, Jenn Burleson Mackay, an associate professor at Virginia Tech who teaches social media use, told the paper her her “first thought is that this kid was really too young to have been using Facebook.” “To be looking for boyfriends and dating advice on Facebook at age 13 just seems inappropriate,” she added.

But a 2015 PEW report found that most 13- to 17-year-olds have positive experiences on social media. The majority said they use social media for flirting, and that social media makes them feel more connected to their significant others. That said, one-quarter of all teens (35 percent of girls and 16 percent of boys) have unfriended or blocked someone who was flirting in a way that made them uncomfortable, and 22 percent of teens say they had a partner who used the Internet or a cell phone to insult them.

“Why wouldn’t she look for boys on Facebook?” asks Rena Bivens, assistant professor at the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University. “It’s easy to demonize technology in these situations, but if you are a teenager looking for a romantic partner and advice on dating and sex, you are going to where it’s available. The biggest threat here is not social media itself, but the anonymity.” Bivens says that it’s easy to put the blame on social media in part because it provides us with a record of events that real life does not. 

Robert Faris, an associate professor of sociology at the University of California, Davis, agrees that it is perfectly normal for 13-year-olds—57 percent of whom are on Facebook—to seek romance online, though it’s not without its risks. In “Being Thirteen: Social Media and the Hidden World of Young Adolescents’ Peer Culture,” Faris and Marion Underwood analyzed the social media activity of over 200 13-year-olds and their parents from six states from September 2014 to April 2015. They found that for many teens, social media is a mostly positive experience, but it can amplify or exacerbate pre-existing insecurities.

“Social media creates an almost addictive need for affirmation,” Faris says. “We’ve got both qualitative and quantitative data on that. When teenagers aren’t getting enough of it, they will go and seek it wherever they can find it.”

While there haven’t been studies linking rising social media use to an increase in pedophilila or sexual violence against teenagers, Faris said we shouldn’t ignore how much easier it makes it for “men with pedophilic interest to find children.”

There are a number of things concerned parents can do make sure their children don’t end up in the more dangerous pockets of social media, including banning devices at night, only allowing them to use social media in their company, or sharing passwords with their kids. Overall, though, Faris says, “What really matters is that kids feel like parents are actively concerned about them, that they are trying and open to dialogue. This is what makes the biggest difference.”

Feb. 2 2016 4:03 PM

Not-Very-Feminist Business Lady Successfully Co-Opts Feminism as a Marketing Gimmick. Hooray?

I love the ads for Thinx, the underwear designed to absorb women’s periods. If you’re female, you, too, probably see those ads daily on Facebook—and maybe you, too, wear a little smile of recognition every time they pop up. One shows the curving sections of a grapefruit leaning against a maroon wall; another pictures a glistening raw egg just beginning to drip down the side of a table. These clever little vanitas tableaus make me feel as if I’m in on the joke: that things are about to get messy beneath the tidy, cultivated shell of the surface.

I know this wry feminist message was likely cooked up in a focus group. Still, I always imagined I could have shared a wink with the woman behind it.

That illusion dribbled away when I read about Thinx founder Miki Agrawal in Noreen Malone’s excellent profile for The Cut. In the paragraph of the piece that has sparked by far the most conversation on Twitter, Agrawal gushes:

“I only started relating to being a feminist, literally, right when I started my company. … Every time I thought about the word feminist, I thought about an angry, ranty … girl. When you hear those spoken-word poets and feminists, who are just like” — she made a high-pitched version of the Charlie Brown grown-up wah wah white-noise sound — “I just couldn’t relate to that. I was always on the ‘women are equal’ front and into empowerment and laughter and inspiration,” she continued. “But I learned so much in the past few years about the plight of women … What I tell my team every day is that we have to be accessible. We have to build a bridge to redefining what feminism is, and we have to do it in a way that makes your mouth go like this,” she said, forming her mouth into what she termed a “smirk.” 

Feminism spoke to Agrawal, it seems, not as a political creed, but as a savvy marketing technique. As Malone puts it, “Thinx is unapologetically riding [the] tide of period feminism, to great success.” But how are the feminists who cheered Thinx’s victory over the prudish impulses of the New York subway system—and who might be the underwear’s demographic of buyers—going to feel about Agrawal’s Machiavellian conversion?

If Twitter is any indication, the answer is: not great. “The period underpants founder would like feminism to be more accessible,” novelist Jami Attenberg tweeted, adding a few minutes later, “Also leave the poets out of it.” Bloomberg reporter Rebecca Greenfield asked, “How does someone graduate from a fancy college with this understanding of feminism?” (Agrawal attended Cornell.)

Greenfield’s question is a fair one. Agrawal is 37, came up with the idea for Thinx in 2010, and opened for business in 2013—meaning that she made it well into her fourth decade before figuring out that feminism wasn’t just for spoken-word poets and their dangly-earring-wearing ilk. On the other hand, maybe we shouldn’t be too surprised. Malone characterizes Agrawal as the female version of a “tech bro.” Her fellow bros aren’t exactly known for their warm feelings toward the f-word. Tech entrepreneur David Sacks wrote in the 1990s that feminists “see phallocentrism in everything longer than it is wide.” Former PayPal CEO Peter Thiel, for his part, has written about why women should be unburdened of their right to vote.

It’s not just masters of the universe in northern California. Celebrities say so many dumb things about feminism that some publications make an annual roundup. (On this year’s list: Shailene Woodley, who was asked if she’s a feminist: “No, because I love men, and I think the idea of ‘raise women to power, take the men away from the power’ is never going to work out because you need balance”; and Lana Del Ray, who declared herself “more interested in, you know, SpaceX and Tesla, what’s going to happen with our intergalactic possibilities. Whenever people bring up feminism, I’m like, god. I’m just not really that interested.”) It’s little wonder that even young women who are attracted to the term sometimes have very little idea what it means. A recent Washington Post feature about young self-identified feminists quoted them saying things such as “feminism is not political” and “being a feminist takes all different forms, and at the core of it is being inclusive and not excluding.”

Many people who identify as feminists had to shuck off misinformation before they arrived at a definition they could embrace. In a culture averse to many of feminism’s aims, perhaps that’s unlikely to change anytime soon. (I remember my own conversion moment, when I asked an older friend if it was true that feminists hated men. Thankfully, she knew the answer was no. I think I was twelve.) What could help, though, is if people like Agrawal, upon realizing what they stand to gain from feminism, could ruminate a bit on why their earlier impressions were misguided or damaging. The thing that rankled most in Agrawal’s comments wasn’t that it took her thirty-odd years to realize that feminists aren’t a bunch of ranty whiners—it’s that she still seems to see them in that light, to the point that she’s assigned herself the task of “build[ing] a bridge to redefining what feminism is.” Maybe Agrawal needs to do a little more research before deciding whether feminism needs “redefining.” If it does, I’m not sure she’s the woman for the job. 

Feb. 2 2016 2:51 PM

Trump’s Supporters 11 Times More Likely Than Clinton’s to Expect Sex on the First Date 

We know that people who support Donald Trump are older and less educated than the general population. They’re very, very white, and more likely to be a pro football fan than the average American. But what it’s like to date one of these specimens, the squeaky wheels of today’s electoral wagon?

A new study from Match—formerly Match.com, currently a “relationship company”—provides some illuminating details. Using data gleaned from its 2015 survey of 5,504 U.S. singles, Match compared the sex and relationship attitudes of Trump’s supporters to those of Hillary Clinton’s. Among the reveals: Single Trump fans are 99 percent more likely than singles who support Clinton to film themselves having sex, and 1,104 percent more likely to expect sex on the first date. That’s 11 times as many Trump supporters as Clinton supporters who believe that they have the right to pout if their date doesn’t put out as well as the right to take America back from whomever’s currently in possession. Clinton’s base is 2,133 percent more likely than Trump’s to have no expectations for any physical contact at all on the first date.

Match’s study, which was run by Research Now, included responses from people between the ages of 18 and “70+.” About 84 percent of Trump’s fanbase is over 45; according to Match, Trump’s supporters are 54 percent more likely than Clinton’s to have five or more ex-partners. They’re 116 percent more likely to talk about their exes, too, which dovetails with the candidate’s “Make America Great Again” nostalgia.

Demographics-wise, lovers of the real-estate mogul are 82 percent more likely to be unemployed than are followers of the former secretary of state. Meanwhile, Clinton’s supporters are six times as likely to be gay. They’re also twice as likely as Trump supporters to fudge the number of people they’ve slept with, though it’s unclear whether that speaks to their overwhelming sexual experience or their chastity.

Only 64 percent of singles polled said they’d vote for a presidential candidate who’d been divorced, and only 78 percent would vote for a woman. But the most disturbing data in the survey came from single women: Just 36 percent said they’d “ghost” on Donald Trump himself after a first date. That means 64 percent would either continue dating him or initiate a polite, sit-down conversation about why the relationship wasn’t working. Hope they don't expect the same consideration from him.

Feb. 2 2016 12:21 PM

Ted Cruz vs. Donald Trump: Who Wins the Creepy-Dad Caucus?

Ted Cruz may have won a mandate from Iowa caucusgoers in a decisive victory over Donald Trump, but his detractors are feeling seen by Cruz’s own daughter this morning. In a BBC video that surfaced this weekend, a squirming 7-year-old Caroline rebuffs her father’s repeated attempts at strategic affection, yelling “Ow, ow, ow, ow!” as he insists on going in for a kiss goodbye.

The best part of the clip is right at the start, when Caroline Cruz extends her arm to flick a finger directly in her father’s face at the mere suggestion of an impending hug. This approximates the general vibe of many residents of states with upcoming primaries, in whom Cruz evokes a case of the heebie-jeebies.

Cruz pretends it’s just a little act his daughter puts on when she actually wants to be embraced in his arms: “Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey hey hey,” he implores. He reaches out to touch her, she slaps his hands away, and he acts like it’s a game, slapping hers back. He mimics familiarity with a tiny roar right against her unwilling cheek, then makes one last giant attempt at a kiss for the sake of the camera. She dodges it with practiced finesse, the look of unadulterated disgust steady on her face, refusing to make eye contact with the candidate. Gleeful Cruz-haters on social media have likened the moment to an iconic scene from Alien:

tumblr_nbwng6xmfu1rp0vkjo1_500

Kids on the campaign trail have it rough—they’re away from home, their parents are busy all the time, and, as in Caroline’s case, they end up getting carried from bleak Iowa town to bleak Iowa town by a guy in a football jersey. “Yeah, they’re goin’ with me,” the jersey guy in this video says of Caroline. “We’re takin’ her.” Clutching her iPad, Caroline looks tired, frustrated, and ready to be done with this whole campaign nonsense. No one could blame her for rejecting an on-camera hug from the dad who’s been gone stumping for the better part of the past year.

But Cruz persists, and he knows how bad it looks. Consider the look of humiliation and panic on Cruz’s face when he glances at the camera, knowing it caught the whole thing—this is the look of a guy who’s so bent on world domination, he’ll do anything to try and force a loving family moment, even if it means ignoring his daughter’s very clear signals that she doesn’t want to be touched.

Voters expect a certain amount of publicity-ready, choreographed family time during a political campaign. The outtakes from Cruz’s family promo video, which contained a lot of coaching and uneasy silences, were embarrassing, but not surprising. Forcing a child to kiss and hug when she feels uncomfortable or isn’t in the mood to be touched, however, is no way to raise a child with a healthy set of boundaries and agency over her own body. A child pressured to kiss in front of the camera is a child used as a pawn.

Luckily for Cruz, Trump’s already got the creepy-dad title in the bag. As if Trump’s implication that he'd have sex with his daughter wasn’t nauseating enough, we now have this image of the candidate and an adolescent Ivanka to surgically excise from our brains:

Feb. 2 2016 11:42 AM

Donald Trump Got a Huge Number of Votes in Iowa. Imagine If He’d Actually Run a Campaign.

Yesterday, in a story about Donald Trump and Christian conservatives, I wrote, “The outcome of this year’s Iowa caucus may tell us if the American religious right has retained its outsize influence in American politics or if a new populist force has supplanted it.” Now, Iowa voters have told us. A record-breaking number of Republicans—over 180,000, compared to 121,503 in 2012—caucused last night. Contrary to expectations, many of them came not to support Trump, but to stop him. According to the Washington Post, 64 percent of caucus-goers were evangelicals. A third of them went for Cruz, compared to a little more than 20 percent for Trump. Conservative Christians gave Cruz his victory over the brash Manhattan vulgarian.  

It turns out that the two things that have always mattered in Iowa Republican politics—faith and an intensive grassroots operation—still do. Throughout this surreal political season, many of us have wondered if Trump’s impersonal, spectacle-driven campaign, built on mass rallies and media exposure rather than one-to-one connection with voters, would actually motivate people to get out and caucus. The answer, actually, is yes. Trump got more votes than either of the last two winners of the Iowa Caucuses: 45,416, compared to 29,839 for Rick Santorum in 2012 and 40,841 for Mike Huckabee in 2008. But Cruz’s religious-right mobilization and sophisticated voter targeting still won out.

In the week before the caucuses, both local and national leaders of the religious right got serious about heading Trump off. Bob Vander Plaats—head of the FAMiLY Leader, and Iowa’s most powerful evangelical—campaigned hard for Cruz. (Vander Plaats has now endorsed all of the past three winners of the GOP Iowa Caucus.) Leading female anti-abortion activists wrote an open letter urging Iowans to support anyone but Trump. A 17,000-strong coalition, Pro-Lifers for Cruz, unveiled itself, with the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins as its chairman. One of the co-chairs, Troy Newman, is a board member of the Center for Medical Progress, the group behind last year’s Planned Parenthood video sting; Newman has argued that the murder of physicians who perform abortions is legally justifiable.

Besides mobilizing a zealous movement, Cruz also ran the sort of detailed digital operation that propelled Barack Obama to victory in the 2008 Democratic Iowa caucuses. Cruz’s campaign, Bloomberg reported, “divided voters by faction, self-identified ideology, religious belief, personality type—creating 150 different clusters of Iowa caucus-goers—down to sixty Iowa Republicans its statistical models showed as likely to share Cruz’s desire to end a state ban on fireworks sales.” Trump did nothing comparable. Politico reported that his campaign spent significantly more on hats—at least $1.2 million—than on field staff or analytics.

Now that Trump is a loser, it’s anyone’s guess whether his support in New Hampshire and other early voting states falls away. Perhaps some sort of psychic bubble will burst, and would-be backers nationwide will realize that Trump is not an unbeatable übermensch bringing national salvation but rather a cynical, peevish showman. We should not, however, discount the enduring power of the alienated, angry nationalists who rallied to Trump’s banner. They turned out in historically high numbers last night, despite a campaign that couldn’t be bothered to put together even a rudimentary field operation. In states where primary voting is easier and evangelicals don’t predominate, those voters might still put Trump over the top. If they don’t, it’s just a matter of time until someone comes along who speaks to their passions and knows how to organize them. Imagine what would have happened if, instead of breaking all the rules of Iowa campaigning, Trump had bothered to master them.

Feb. 2 2016 6:55 AM

How Dare the Iowa Caucus Interrupt Fans’ Sacred Communion With The Bachelor

Hello yes 911? I turned on my TV to watch The Bachelor and there was some completely irrelevant news about Iowa and caucuses on instead!!!

Such was the outrage some fans experienced Monday evening when they tuned into ABC for their weekly communion with dreamboat Ben Higgins and his quickly dwindling number of prospective wives, only to find their regularly scheduled programming interrupted for some pesky election news. Good thing democracy is all about making people’s voices heard, and some Bach fans spoke out on Twitter.

This is Week 5 of Ben’s Bachelor season and a crucial juncture in all 11 of the relationships he’s currently having. This is about true love, people! Contrast that to the 2016 election, which has been going on for years at this point and will continue to play out probably over several more months. Like, no matter what position Ted Cruz comes in, his campaign will live to fight another day. Whereas if Olivia and her cankles don’t get a rose, that’s it for her. (Don’t tell me what happens, by the way, I DVR’ed it.)

Feb. 1 2016 5:55 PM

Dakota Johnson and Leslie Mann’s Shameless Flirting Is Hollywood Under the Female Gaze

Unless you’re Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron doll, movie promo interviews can be monotonous, overscheduled affairs with few opportunities for unscripted merriment. All the more reason, then, to praise Dakota Johnson and Leslie Mann for turning their How to Be Single press tour into a piece of performance art by disarming a Miami TV reporter with a barrage of flattery about his attire and alleged good looks.

The giggling pair starts out by giving Chris Van Vliet a compliment on his socks, a bold statement pair covered in fish silhouettes. They ask after his relationship status, applaud his workout regimen, and finally convince him to unbutton part of his shirt. It’s brazen, though not particularly sexy, and just uncomfortable enough to be a gender-politics power grab.

Of course, the indignant men of YouTube are already riled up about the interview’s implications. “Yeah no this is perfectly fine right? Funny, cute, awesome?” the top comment reads. “Except only if it were two male actors hitting on a female reporter, then it'd be labelled 'degrading, low, unprofessional, creepy' etc. If its okay for women to do this it should be okay for men to do it too.”

I disagree: Johnson and Mann’s shameless flirting is degrading, and definitely creepy. That’s what makes it great. (It’s worth noting that Van Vliet appears game throughout their shtick and has been joking about it on Twitter for the past few days.) Men have so often objectified women reporters and interview subjects, minimizing their professional accomplishments by making statements about their looks, that it’s wonderfully unsettling to see a little evening of the score with a glimpse of the world through the female gaze. The patriarchy doesn’t have to crumble under male tears—sometimes, a little chest hair will do.

READ MORE STORIES