The XX Factor
What Women Really Think

Jan. 18 2017 5:15 PM

Hidden Figures Is a Powerful Statement Against Bathroom Discrimination

Hidden Figures, the new film about black female NASA mathematicians that’s pulling in bonkers numbers at the box office, is the perfect escape from the existential dread of inauguration week.

It’s a redemptive telling of American achievement that gives talented individuals who’ve been erased from history the heroic treatment they deserve. It places black women at the center of their own narratives, doing the work to advance themselves and their fellow mistreated employees. Hidden Figures is pro-science, pro–smart people, pro-woman, anti-racism, and anti-Russia. It’s an eminently feel-good (if highly sensationalized) corrective to much of the doom that’s descended over contemporary politics.

The film is also an unmistakable statement in support of bathroom access. Taraji P. Henson plays the brilliant real-life physicist Katherine Johnson, who calculated the trajectories for John Glenn’s orbit of the earth. In the movie, Katherine is forced to walk half a mile from her desk across the NASA campus to use the “colored” women’s restroom. Most of the black women at NASA at the time were relegated to a room for human “computers,” the women who did much of the agency’s calculations by hand. When Johnson is assigned to work in a different building with an elite task force of mostly white male physicists, she finds that there’s no place for her to pee. So she runs back and forth with her stack of binders and papers, in rain and sun, every time she needs a bathroom break.

Jan. 18 2017 4:32 PM

Serena Williams Is Not Here for Your Celebrity Engagement Narrative

Celebrity media outlets have a way of drawing out the news of a star’s engagement into multiple discrete stories. First there’s the appearance of a mysterious new ring on “that finger.” Then the official confirmation by the star’s representative. At some point later, there’s the post-engagement interview, in which the newly affianced gushes to a reporter about her partner’s handsomeness, brilliance, and so on.

Some celebrities are happy to play along with this. Jennifer Aniston surely knew what she was doing when she choked up during her first official post-engagement interview with Chelsea Handler. But it’s infinitely cooler when a star ignores the machinery prodding her to swoon on cue.

And so we arrive at the engagement of the serene Serena Williams, arguably the greatest athlete of all time. As of December, she is also the fiancée of Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. Williams announced her surprise engagement on Reddit, where Ohanian commented that she had “made me the happiest man on the planet.” Since then, they’ve kept pretty quiet about the news.

Jan. 17 2017 6:43 PM

News Outlets Are Telling Their Employees to Stay Home From the Women’s March

Since Donald Trump’s election, there has been a renewed fervor behind conversations of journalistic objectivity in newsrooms. The president-elect has declared war on the free press and used political reporters as piñatas; it’s hard to imagine how a journalist might approach such issues with a bland neutrality.

Trump has also made himself out to be a threat to the very lives and liberties of journalists (and laypeople) who are Muslims, undocumented people, women, and people of color. Almost every news organization has an ethics policy in place that limits employees’ political advocacy to varying degrees. But in the current political climate, in which we find ourselves counting down to a very not-normal regime, some journalists are wondering whether the normal rules apply.

Jan. 17 2017 4:05 PM

Marla Maples and Tiffany Trump Allegedly Try, Fail to Procure Free Hairstyling for the Inauguration

Marla Maples and Tiffany Trump are using Donald Trump’s inauguration as a scam to get free blowouts, if a Washington stylist who came forward in the Washington Post is to be believed.

Tricia Kelly, who has tamed the tresses of clients in both major parties, thought she had settled on a fee of $200 to do both Maples’ and Tiffany’s hair, which was already lower than she had initially asked for: Kelly had requested $150 in addition to her usual fee for travel but was told the budget could not accommodate that. (Red flag No. 1, in retrospect.) But then an assistant from Maples’ team came back with a new offer: How about free fifty, aka zero dollars and no cents? Would Kelly agree to do the women’s hair for the priceless exposure to her craftsmanship it would no doubt bring?

Jan. 17 2017 2:11 PM

The U.S. Abortion Rate Fell to Its Lowest Point Since Roe v. Wade

The U.S. abortion rate has fallen to the lowest it’s been since Roe v. Wade prohibited states from outlawing abortion, according to a new report from the Guttmacher Institute. In 2014, the year of the most recent data set available, there were 14.6 abortions per 1,000 women of childbearing age (15 to 44 years old). That’s less than half the peak U.S. abortion rate, 29.3 per 1,000 women, reached in 1980 and 1981.

When Roe was handed down in 1973, the national abortion rate was 16.3 abortions per 1,000 women. The rate rose sharply until 1980; since then, it has dropped at a relatively steady rate. The total number of abortions in the U.S. peaked in 1990 at just over 1.6 million and decreased to 958,700 in 2013, the first time since the ‘70s it was less than 1 million.

Jan. 17 2017 2:03 PM

Women’s March on Washington Says No to Pro-Life Feminist Group

Is it possible to oppose abortion rights and call yourself a feminist? The well-worn question has arisen again this week as an anti-abortion feminist group has been ousted from its partnership with Saturday’s Women’s March on Washington.

Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa applied for her organization, New Wave Feminists, to become a formal partner of the march in early January. New Wave Feminists describes itself as a “Badass. Pro-life. Feminists.” Herndon-De La Rosa, who lives in the Dallas area, has long been outspoken in her opposition to Trump. “Donald Trump is the guy who asks to buy you a drink at the bar and when you tell him you’re not interested, he calls you as a cunt and says he didn’t want to do it anyway,” she told me in August. Today, she told me she accepts the election results, but wants to do her part to speak up against the president-elect’s misogyny. She sees the march as “a strong, united female voice to say ‘we’re watching you and we’re holding you accountable,” she said. “We were really excited to be included in that voice.”

Jan. 13 2017 8:00 PM

A New Commemorative Coin Depicts Lady Liberty as a Black Woman, and It’s Gorgeous

To commemorate its 225th anniversary, the U.S. Mint has introduced a collectors’ coin that marks a significant departure from every other American coin: It depicts Lady Liberty as a black woman. In an image designed by Justin Kunz, the new Lady Liberty gazes off into the distance beneath the word “LIBERTY.” Her hair, in twists, is pulled back into a loose bun; she wears a toga and a headband of stars. The value inscribed on the coin is $100, but because it is made of 24-karat gold, its actual worth is closer to $1,200.

It would be easy to dismiss the coin as meaningless: The U.S. Mint’s insistence on representing freedom with a fictional “lady” is anachronistic at best and troubling at worst, and commemorative coins aren’t exactly the beating heart of popular culture. Even so, the new Lady Liberty coin feels like an enormous symbolic step, somehow both urgent and long overdue. If we’re going to keep on depicting liberty as a woman, she ought to reflect the appearance of America’s actual women, not the tired, racist beauty standard embraced by our Founding Fathers.

Jan. 13 2017 5:44 PM

Right-Wing Trolls Harass Asian-American Journalists for Video of Totally Different Woman

“There’s a joke among Asian Americans that people think we all look the same,” Washington Post homepage editor Doris Truong wrote on Thursday afternoon. “That joke became my own personal Pizzagate late Wednesday.”

Truong was referring to a rash of harassment she’d received after some people saw what appeared to be a woman of Asian descent taking photos of secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson’s notes after his Senate confirmation hearing. Truong was not at the hearing—as a homepage editor, she’s not in the habit of reporting from the Capitol Building—but some self-appointed investigators must have combed lists of U.S. journalists for Asian women and decided to name Truong responsible.

Jan. 13 2017 2:10 PM

Senate GOP Shoots Down Proposed Protection for Maternity Coverage, Free Contraception

After 1 a.m. on Thursday, Senate Republicans blocked a series of amendments that would have safeguarded individual parts of the Affordable Care Act that are popular among voters across the political spectrum. Democrats had proposed measures that would have codified the provisions that help people with preexisting conditions get fair insurance, protect children’s access to Medicaid, make it easier for veterans to get insurance, and let young people stay on their parents’ health insurance until age 26. Republicans voted each one of them down.

They also narrowly blocked an amendment from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand that would have prevented Congress from touching the ACA’s provisions for women’s health care, even if it axed the bulk of the rest of the law. (The vote was 49-49, with Sen. Susan Collins, R-ME, and Sen. Dean Heller, R-NV, voting with the Democrats.)*

Jan. 13 2017 11:51 AM

Why Is Bullet Journaling Popular? It Makes You Feel Productive for Doing Just About Anything.

It’s January, the time of year when simply everyone is suddenly committed to whipping themselves into shape, eating healthily, and getting organized. If my inbox is any indication, gyms and diet programs have made heavy investments in marketing this month, but when it comes to productivity, we’re on our own. Most of us learn about new systems that promise to revolutionize our lives the old-fashioned way: by ogling posts by total strangers on Facebook and Instagram.

Judging from an informal poll of my Slate colleagues, January 2017 is the month when productivity proselytizers pushed the bullet journal into the forefront of the national psyche, though the system has been around for several years. A bullet journal, if the concept hasn’t yet penetrated your consciousness, is a mighty mash-up of a running to-do list, a mid-range planner, and a life log. The best way to learn more is to watch the video in which creator Ryder Carroll explains the system.