The XX Factor
What Women Really Think

March 21 2017 2:54 PM

Lindsey Graham Used Neil Gorsuch’s Confirmation Hearing to Plug His 20-Week Abortion Ban

It’s day two of confirmation hearings for Neil Gorsuch, Donald Trump’s nominee for the current Supreme Court vacancy, and the spectacle is already telling us a lot more about Gorsuch’s interlocutors than about the mild-mannered judge himself. Around noon on Tuesday, Sen. Lindsey Graham engaged in a nice bit of grandstanding to promote a 20-week abortion ban he’s been pushing in the Senate for years.

March 21 2017 12:46 PM

Tomi Lahren Has Lost Pro-Life Conservatives. But at Least She Has the Alt-Right!

Tomi Lahren has always seemed like a too on-the-nose parody of a conservative media star. Where others were tan, blonde, and young, Lahren is bronzed, platinum, and literally 24. On her nightly show on Glenn Beck’s the Blaze TV, her commentary wasn’t just “racially charged”; it was often openly racist. She “doesn’t see color,” and she hates all the right things, including “radical Islam,” Black Lives Matter, “Hollywood crybabies,” and “nasty feminist B.S.” And her shtick worked! She had quickly become biggest celebrity at the Blaze other than Beck himself. Last month, President Trump called Lahren to thank her for being nice to him on Hannity that night and for expressing her support for him on her own show during the election.

On Friday, however, one of the brightest—or at least shiniest—rising stars in right-wing media crossed one of conservatism’s historically brightest lines. Appearing on the View, Lahren declared that she is pro-choice. Her show was suspended indefinitely on Monday.

“I’m pro choice, and here’s why,” Lahren began. “I am a constitutional, y’know, someone that loves the Constitution. I’m someone that’s for limited government. So I can’t sit here and be a hypocrite and say I’m for limited government but I think the government should decide what women do with their bodies. I can sit here and say that, as a Republican and I can say, you know what, I’m for limited government, so stay out of my guns, and you can stay out of my body as well.”

The response from social conservatives was immediate and scathing. “This is not only the most illogical reasoning I’ve ever heard, but stupid, even dangerous,” Nicole Russell wrote in a 1,400-word takedown on the Federalist. By Saturday, the Daily Caller was reporting that Lahren was “likely” going to be leaving the Blaze when her contract was up in September and could very well be out sooner thanks to her comments. Lahren’s colleagues were no more forgiving. Beck dissed her on his radio show over the weekend, saying you don’t have to be anti-abortion to work at the network, but “it takes intellectual honesty and a willingness to actually think these things through, and to do more than just read Twitter and Facebook to get your news and opinions.”

Blaze reporter Kaitlyn Schallhorn subtweeted the day after Lahren’s appearance on the View:

Another Blaze reporter posted a smackdown via Bible verse:

As recently as Dec. 22, Lahren was referring to pro-choicers as “straight-up babykillers” and to abortion as murder. A few weeks earlier, however, she told the New York Times she was pro-choice. What changed? Oh, who knows. Like her fan in the Oval Office, Lahren values a telegenic brand of unpredictable “authenticity” over any particular core values. As she tweeted the morning after her appearance on the View, “I speak my truth. If you don’t like it, tough. I will always be honest and stand in my truth.” By Tuesday morning, she was framing her suspension as an opportunity for womanly empowerment.

The Federalist called Lahren’s flip-flop “opportunism,” but at first glance it wasn’t clear what opportunity she was taking, other than another quick spin in the news cycle. Her comments may have been nothing more than a Kinsley gaffe, an accidental revelation of her real opinion, which would be unsurprising for a not-particularly-religious college-educated twentysomething. It’s easy to imagine that she, like Trump, has simply not thought much about abortion as a policy issue. As Lahren told a Daily Caller podcast in October, “Abortion is not one of those issues that is most important to me.”

But now that social conservatives are abandoning her en masse, it’s interesting to look at the few prominent people on the right who have spoken up to defend her. There are traditional libertarians, who approve of Lahren’s limited-government explanation for her views. But there’s also the alt-right. Vice co-founder Gavin McInnes quickly called her “an asset to our side.” And here’s white nationalist Richard Spencer on Sunday:

Spencer’s tweet links to a piece titled “The Pro-Life Temptation,” on a new-ish alt-right website where he serves as an editor. The essay argues that the pro-life movement is “dysgenic”—as opposed to eugenic—and that being opposed to abortion contradicts the alt-right’s appreciation for for Nietzschean superiority. “In a world with reliable birth control, it is quite easy to avoid an unwanted pregnancy,” the essayist writes. “The only ones who can’t are the least intelligent and responsible members of society: women who are disproportionately Black, Hispanic, and poor.” In other words, the right fetuses are being aborted, so why interfere? On Monday, Spencer published his own essay on the site: “Why Tomi Lahren Is Right on Abortion.”

If Lahren lands on her feet at Fox News or elsewhere, it will be worth paying attention to who she’s speaking for.

March 21 2017 11:53 AM

Stop Calling Everything Millennial Pink

Another day, another piece about “millennial pink,” the blush shade young people supposedly can’t get enough of. I was fascinated by this trend the first time the Cut reported on it last summer, but after watching Fashionista, the Ringer, and Bloomberg BusinessWeek (among others) each discover its magic, I thought there wasn’t much left to say on the matter. Not so, the Cut declared this week: Millennial pink is the Elizabeth Warren of colors—no matter how tired we are of hearing about it, it persists.

March 20 2017 4:02 PM

Kellyanne Conway Is Not the First Lady of the United States

The cover story of this week’s New York magazine is an excellent reported profile of Kellyanne Conway, packed with intimate details patiently gathered by the magazine’s Washington correspondent Olivia Nuzzi. It is a gripping piece, one that does what all good journalism ought to do—leave its readers with a more nuanced and deeper understanding of an issue (or, in the case, a person) than was previously possible. My favorite bit is the breathtaking description of Conway eating a 7-inch scallion (“like a sword swallower on Coney Island or a snake eating a mouse”), followed by the inclusion of Conway’s own admission that until she ate it, she had thought it was a piece of asparagus. The anecdote made me finally understand the oft-repeated claim that Conway is likeable in person.

But the piece fails in one spectacular and bizarre way: It does not prove its thesis. The headline on the cover of the magazine declares Conway as “The True First Lady of Trump’s America.”

Lest you worry this is a case of some disconnected editor applying an inaccurate description, the piece actually does echo the language championed in that cover line. Early on, Nuzzi writes:

By March, she was less a pollster, campaign manager, or communications guru and more what the press expected Ivanka Trump would become in the absence of Melania Trump, who remains in New York with her young son, Barron — a pervasive female double of the president, an extension of his will and much more fiendishly committed to her boss than anyone else working on his behalf. Fewer than 50 days into the new administration, Conway had become almost inseparable from the public’s idea of the Trump White House. That is, the functional First Lady of the United States.

Wait, what? What actions has she taken that put her in the place of “functional First Lady of the United States”? Who cares that Hillary Clinton used the same room as her office when she was first lady, or that Conway is picking a few issues to focus on? Her prime tasks, supported by everything else in this profile, still seem to be advising the president and occasionally serving as his mouthpiece. The Venn diagram of what Conway is doing and the responsibilities of the functional first lady of the United States barely even features an intersection.

Serving as first lady is largely about being a hostess, giving tours of the White House to school groups, and welcoming foreign leaders. Yes, these women take on targeted issues, but usually ones that keep them safely disconnected from the battleground of the presidency. And while it’s true that Melania isn’t stepping up, it also doesn’t really matter that much. First lady is mostly a crazy role that ought to be abolished.

Conway, on the other hand, is doing much more than playing hostess. The piece concludes that Conway’s main job “remains playing media foil, which can mean punching bag, and often results in Conway herself being the story.” This, again, is almost directly the opposite of what first ladies normally do.

Conway does seems to have unprecedented visibility and popularity for a mere advisor. Nuzzi writes:

To judge by her reception at the Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual assembly of Republicans that takes place at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, she might as well be a second president, mobbed by reporters and conservatives young and old, who turned around and walked backward to take selfies as she made her way toward the escalators. “We’re on Snapchat!” a woman told her excitedly as she moved sideways, angling her camera at her face. “Thank you for saving the world,” a man said. “Oh,” Conway said, “we’re just getting started.”

People might respond to a popular first lady that way, I guess. But even considering how beloved she was in her party, I don’t think many people thought Michelle Obama was saving the world. On the other hand, this greeting of Conway actually seems appropriate for people devoted to the Trump cause, given the high-profile role she has had in securing the presidency and then serving in the administration.

The final piece of evidence for Conway-as-first-lady seems to be this:

With the president holed up in the White House, separated from his wife and sons, and nostalgic for the energy and camaraderie of the campaign trail, Conway’s familiarity is a comfort. She’s often the only senior staffer who’ll indulge his preference for fast food and even accompanied him after his joint-session address to Congress for burgers.

What does this prove, besides the fact that Conway and her boss seem to be friends? There’s a vague hint of the idea that men and women can’t have platonic relationships and that men are bound to misbehave in their wives’ absence (more plausible in Trump’s case given his … romantic history). But insofar as demonstrating that Conway is trying to fill in a first lady–shaped hole, this is not convincing. Indeed, the profile goes to great lengths to explain how generally sociable and charming the woman is. Perpetually hungry Conway would try to curry favor by getting burgers with her boss.

So should we blame this bad cover line on the fact that sexism is still alive and well in Trump’s America, and that strong women are still regulated to the role of wife, supporter, soother, but never leader? No—in fact I think Nuzzi does a great job of highlighting the tangled bizarreness of Kellyanne Conway and feminism, overall. And of course, Nuzzi is not responsible for the line; her editors are. But in the end, I think this line was created to do exactly what bombastic cover lines have long been designed to do—sell magazines.

March 20 2017 3:07 PM

Why Gorsuch’s Alleged Sexist Classroom Comments Are So Troubling—and Revealing

On Monday, not long before the start of Senate confirmation hearings for Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neal Gorsuch, NPR released a startling story: According to one of the judge’s former law students, Jennifer Sisk, Gorsuch once made an extraordinarily sexist classroom comment. Sisk alleges that in April 2016, Gorsuch “interrupted our class discussion to ask students how many of us knew women who used their companies for maternity benefits, who used their companies to—in order to have a baby and then leave right away.”

When few students raised their hand, Gorsuch reportedly “became animated” and said, “Come on, guys. All of your hands should be up. Many women do this.” He later added, in Sisk’s words, that “companies have to ask these sort of questions at the interview so that companies can protect themselves.” Sisk brought her concerns to two deans, but it’s unclear whether they ever spoke to Gorsuch.

What should we make of these remarks? Sympathetic lawyers may be tempted to dismiss them as a law school hypothetical gone terribly awry, an unfortunate pedagogical misstep. But I think find them to be quite revealing. The comments may seem out of character for Gorsuch himself, whose clerks, colleagues, and students have largely praised as a respectful professional. But they are not out of line with Gorsuch’s own opinions, which devalue the profound, constitutionally protected connection between women’s individual autonomy and economic equality. Gorsuch has already admitted that he holds corporations’ “religious freedom” in higher esteem then women’s liberty. So it is not at all surprising to discover that he also values corporate interests over a woman’s right to be free from pregnancy discrimination.

March 16 2017 6:27 PM

Woman Who Fought Off Bathroom Attacker Tells Anti-Trans Group to Stop Using Her Story

An anti-transgender group in Washington state is using a recent alleged assault against a woman in a public bathroom to raise money for its ballot initiative campaign, according to the Seattle Stranger. The woman, who says she fought off her attacker and locked him in the bathroom until police arrived, has demanded that the group make a public retraction and refund any money sent in through the fundraising email that used her story.

March 16 2017 4:42 PM

Trump Sends Hate Group Leader to U.N. Women’s Commission, Echoing George W. Bush

Donald Trump has taken an approach to the presidency that might generously be called contrarian. His Secretary of Energy once proposed dismantling the Department of Energy after forgetting it even existed. The new head of the Environmental Protection Agency has called himself a “leading advocate” against the very agency he runs. The woman in charge of U.S. public schools hates public schools.

So it comes as little surprise that the members of the president’s delegation to the United Nations’ annual summit on women are opposed to the U.N. as a whole and the fundamental rights of women in particular. On Monday, the State Department revealed the list of people who will represent the U.S. at the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) this week and next. They include a senior executive from a known hate group and a leader at an organization that works against grants to address violence against women.

March 16 2017 3:28 PM

Ivana Trump’s Parenting Memoir Promises to Be Shadier Than the Shadow of Trump Tower

Ivana Trump is writing a memoir about “motherhood, strength and resilience,” the Associated Press reported on Wednesday. Raising Trump, available September 12, will focus on Ivana’s life with her children Ivanka, Eric, and Donald Trump Jr., and will include contributions from the children themselves. The book will be “non-political,” the publisher said, but it has the potential to be something much more important: a document that puts an end to the stubborn myth that Donald Trump deserves any credit at all for raising his children.

March 16 2017 11:21 AM

Maker of Hackable "Smart" Vibrator Will Pay $3.5 Million Settlement to Users

People who bought easily-hacked vibrators that recorded and transmitted their vibing habits are about to get a pretty payday from a Canadian sex-toy maker. Standard Innovation, the oxymoronically-named company that manufactures the “smart” We-Vibe device, will pay $3.75 million to settle a class-action lawsuit filed in federal court in Chicago.

March 15 2017 6:06 PM

If You Like the Clear-Knee Mom Jeans, You’re Gonna Love These DIY Fashion Looks

Though conceptually baffling, you can’t accuse the so-called clear-knee mom jeans of being anything but self-explanatory: They are mom jeans—the tapered, high-waisted denim cut currently coming back into style among young and fashionable people, despite the kicking and screaming of the rest of the population not yet ready to embrace them—with see-through plastic panels over the knees. No one really understands the purpose of the see-through panels—harnessing solar energy?—but all the same, these jeans have crisscrossed the internet in recent days, becoming viral grist for news items at the Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, and others. Clearly, they’ve captured our collective imagination.