The XX Factor
What Women Really Think

May 24 2016 1:47 PM

The Amount of Housework a Mom Does Is Influenced by Where She Lives

 

Within couples, who does what around the house can appear to depend on personal situations that lead to individual arrangements. Work schedules and habits are considered, sometimes consciously, sometimes not, and a pattern of domestic work emerges. We may not always like the arrangement, but many of us slog through them with the belief that we mainly have ourselves and our partners to blame.

 

 

But a new paper from sociologists Leah Ruppanner and David J. Maume published inSocial Science Research suggests that division of housework is heavily influenced by a number of outside factors, including where we live. Ruppaner and Maume write that research on domestic work in the United States often treats the country as a single entity, when, in fact, the division of housework varies widely around the country. By comparing housework patterns from state to state, they discovered that the amount of time a woman spends on domestic chores is connected to how likely women are to work in that state and how culturally traditional or progressive the state is.

 

May 24 2016 12:53 PM

Samantha Bee Unearthed a Horrifying Film From the Dawn of the Pro-Life Movement

For those of us born long after the religious right had secured its chokehold on the sanity of liable Americans, the history of the movement—and its obsession with abortion in particular—can get lost in the chaotic rancor of its current proponents. But it’s worth reminding ourselves every now and again of the bizarre details of its oft-forgotten roots.

Samantha Bee has pinpointed one of the weirdest relics of the movement’s infancy: a horror flick made to strike fear into the hearts of baby-loving conservatives across the country. “Many people think the new religious right arose as a response to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, but that’s not true,” Bee began in her bit from Monday night’s Full Frontal. She traces the movement back to a few years after Roe, when religious leaders such as Jerry Falwell and Paul Weyrich rather arbitrarily chose abortion as their next issue with which to ignite Christian furor.

Enter Frank Schaeffer, a sci-fi filmmaker who tells Bee and her team that contributing to the launch of what became the pro-life movement is “the single greatest regret of my life.” In the ’70s, Schaeffer made a film called Whatever Happened to the Human Race? with the help of his father—and the clips Full Frontal pulled are almost too disturbingly on-the-nose to be believed. There are images of children with white faces painting in blood-red, baby dolls scattered on the shores of present-day Sodom; other baby dolls rolling down a conveyor into a garbage incinerator; and a real toddler crying in a cage, banging on the bars to escape. “Ten bucks says that kid is still ‘making films’ in the Valley,” says Bee of the tot, who Schaeffer says was volunteered for the role by his California Christian parents.

But the creepiest part of this early anti-abortion film fest is a cartoon Bee calls “Homeschool-house Rock.” The video, made to screen at churches around the country to enlist them in a fight most evangelical leaders would have rather left to Catholics, shows evil doctors using hoses to suck up dancing fetuses wearing top hats and canes while scantily clad nurses drop-kick a series of swaddled infants. In the vein of so many propaganda films, it would seem like a hilarious parody if it weren’t such an effective, damaging piece of political messaging.

Bee also nails the hypocrisy of abortion clinic terrorists who call themselves pro-life and points out the willful ignorance of Bible-thwacking abortion-clinic protesters who don’t care that the Bible says exactly nothing about abortion. And lest any of us think 9/11 conspiracy theories are the stuff of fringe nutjobs and the Westboro Baptist Church, Bee reminds us that Falwell, a religious leader regularly hailed by mainstream American politicians all the way up to the president, believed abortion was to blame for the terrorist attack. “The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this, because God will not be mocked,” Falwell says in a clip from Sept. 13, 2001. “When we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I point the finger in their face and say ‘You helped this happen.’ ”

May 24 2016 12:35 PM

The Canon Is Sexist, Racist, Colonialist, and Totally Gross. Yes, You Have to Read It Anyway.

Hello, Yale students. It’s me, a random internet writer. I have some unfortunate news for you, but first, let me step back and catch everybody up.

Recently, the requirements for the Yale English major have come under fire. To fulfill the major as it currently stands, a student must take either the two-part “major English poets” sequence—which spans Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare, Donne, Milton, Pope, Wordsworth, and Eliot—or four equivalent courses on the same dead white men. Inspired in part by articles in the Yale Daily News and Down magazine, Elis have crafted a petition exhorting the college to “decolonize” its English curriculum. Their demands: abolish the major English poets cycle and revise the remaining requirements “to deliberately include literatures relating to gender, race, sexuality, ableism, and ethnicity.” “It is your responsibility as educators to listen to student voices,” the letter concludes. “We have spoken. We are speaking. Pay attention.”

This is great, and I applaud your commitment to inclusivity and diversity (as well as your command of rhythm and anaphora.) Rethinking the major’s prerequisites to reflect a wider array of perspectives, gifts, and experiences is an awesome idea. Also, you’ve pointed elsewhere to some deplorable statistics: Of 98 English faculty members, only seven identify as nonwhite, and none identify as Hispanic or indigenous. Yale urgently needs to address the homogeny of its professorship, both for students’ sake and its own.  

Here’s the thing, though. If you want to become well-versed in English literature, you’re going to have to hold your nose and read a lot of white male poets. Like, a lot. More than eight.

The canon is what it is, and anyone who wishes to understand how it continues to flow forward needs to learn to swim around in it. There is a clear line to Terrance Hayes (and Frank and Claire Underwood, and Lyon Dynasty) from Shakespeare. There is a direct path to Adrienne Rich (and Katniss Everdeen, and Lyra Belacqua) from Milton. (Rich basically says as much in “Diving into the Wreck.”) These guys are the heavies, the chord progressions upon which the rest of us continue to improvise, and we’d be somewhere else entirely without them.

You’ve written that “it is possible to graduate with a degree in English language & literature by exclusively reading the works of (mostly wealthy) white men.” It is possible to graduate a lot of ways, and every English major is responsible for taking advantage of the bounty of courses the department offers to attain a full and deep education. What is not possible is to reckon with the racist, sexist, colonist poets who comprise the canon—and to transcend their failures—via a “see no evil, hear no evil” policy.

I want to gently push back, too, against the idea that the major English poets have nothing to say to students who aren’t straight, male, and white. For all the ways in which their particular identities shaped their work, these writers tried to represent the entire human condition, not just their clan. A great artist possesses both empathy and imagination: Many of Shakespeare’s female characters are as complexly nuanced as any in circulation today, Othello takes on racial prejudice directly, and Twelfth Night contains enough gender-bending identity shenanigans to fuel multiple drag shows and occupy legions of queer scholars. The “stay in your lane” mentality that seems to undergird so much progressive discourse—only polyamorous green people really “get” the “polyamorous green experience,” and therefore only polyamorous greens should read and write about polyamorous greens, say—ignores our common humanity.    

But even if you disagree, there’s no getting around the facts. Although you’ve written that the English department “actively contributes to the erasure of history,” what it really does is accurately reflect the tainted history we have—one in which straight white cis-men dominated art-making for centuries—rather than the woke history we want and fantasize about. There are few (arguably no) female poets writing in Chaucer’s time who rival Chaucer in wit, transgressiveness, texture, or psychological insight. The lack of equal opportunity was a tremendous injustice stemming from oppressive social norms, but we can’t reverse it by willing brilliant female wordsmiths into the past. Same goes for people of color in Wordsworth’s day, or openly queer people in Pope’s, or …  

Here is what I am not saying. I am not saying that Yale shouldn’t offer a rich panoply of courses on female writers, queer writers, writers with disabilities, and writers of color. And it does! In addition to featuring names like Elizabeth Bishop and Ralph Ellison in its survey classes, the course catalog presents such titles as “Women Writers from the Restoration to Romanticism,” “Race and Gender in American Literature,” “American Artists and the African American Book,” “The Spectacle of Disability,” “Asian American Literature,” “Chaucer and Discourses of Dissent,” “Postcolonial World Literature: 1945-present,” “Black Literature and U.S. Liberalism” … and I’m not even counting the cross listings with the comparative literature; American studies; and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies departments.

Moreover, I am not arguing that it is acceptable for an English major to graduate from college having only read white male authors or even 70 percent white male authors. But you cannot profess to be a student of English literature if you have not lingered in the slipstreams of certain foundational figures, who also happen to be (alas) both white and male: In addition to the majors listed above, Jonson, Shelley, Keats, Pound, Auden, and Frost. This is frustrating, unfair, and 100 percent nonnegotiable. (But hey, try to have some fun reading Frost? You could do so much worse!)

The canon of English literature is sexist. It is racist. It is colonialist, ableist, transphobic, and totally gross. You must read it anyway. 

May 24 2016 7:02 AM

The Quiet Violence of the Unwanted Kiss

In photos from last Thursday’s amfAR gala at Cannes, it might look like auction host Uma Thurman wasn’t perturbed by the surprise open-mouthed kiss she fielded from “playboy industrialist” and Fiat heir Lapo Elkann. With a gracious smile, she stood for the cameras as he pressed his sweaty face against hers and dangled his lit cigarette dangerously close to her updo.

Elkann, who formerly worked as the CEO of Fiat and a personal assistant to Henry Kissinger, had placed the winning $196,000 bid for two tickets to the Victoria’s Secret fashion show. When he posed for a series of celebratory photos with Thurman, he went in for the kiss.

Those pictures belie the reality of the situation: As Thurman’s rep later made clear, the kiss was “not consensual.” “It is opportunism at its worst. She wasn't complicit in it,” Thurman’s rep said in a statement. “Somewhere in his head [Elkann] must have thought it an appropriate way of behaving. It clearly wasn’t. She is very unhappy that this happened to her and feels violated.”

May 23 2016 6:02 PM

Neo-Nazis Consider Taylor Swift Their “Aryan Goddess”

If her pop stardom ever stalls, Taylor Swift has another solid career option waiting in the wings: fascist dictator—or at least symbol of the fascist movement, if said fascists would not consent to being ruled over by a woman. Apparently, neo-Nazis already consider Swift an “Aryan goddess,” according to Broadly: Her blond hair, her thin frame, and her roots in country music make her the perfect avatar for the people who populate the internet’s “alt-right” subculture.

It may have started as a meme, but now actual white supremacists count themselves as fans of Swift, and some of them insist that she shares their beliefs: “It is also an established fact that Taylor Swift is secretly a Nazi and is simply waiting for the time when Donald Trump makes it safe for her to come out and announce her Aryan agenda to the world,” one white supremacist told Broadly. This is not an association the pop star has courted, but if you read her public profile selectively, there are a few elements it’s easy to see why the alt-right might find appealing: She’s never revealed her political beliefs in public, and because she started as a country singer, some people think that qualifies as conservative. And conservative, as we all know, is just a hop, skip, and a jump from Nazi.

There’s also her squeaky-clean public persona. Swift sings about sex, wears revealing outfits and costumes, and was once known as a serial dater—in short, she does the things that pop stars do. In spite of this, parents continue to cite Swift as a better role model than other female celebrities—she’s Teflon that way; just because she has a cat and likes polka dots, people tend to associate her with innocence. As one self-proclaimed fascist told Broadly, “Take Kim Kardashian or Miley Cyrus as examples of this: Both began their lives with the same Nordic blood that Swift did, but what makes these two degenerates unfit for consideration as fascist icons? It is because, although Aryan in blood, the two are not Aryan in spirit. To be Aryan in spirit is what completes the fascist.” Swift and her “spirit” remain popular and well-respected even as she engages in subtle slut-shaming of other stars and rules over her squad of friends with an iron fist, only choosing model-hot members and making them appear in her videos and by her side. (Though hey, would a white supremacist have let that one black girl in?) What reads as wholesome to some looks overly calculating to others, but any way you slice it, both are qualities that are resonate with neo-Nazis’ imaginations.

So should we start interpreting “Bad Blood” in a whole new light? Hearing “You Belong With Me” as a secret conversion anthem? Reading her most recent album, 1989, as an alternative history of what would have happened had the Berlin Wall never come down? Though she would be a coveted recruit in any political movement, it’s safe to say Taylor Swift is not a Nazi. Maybe it’s just true that the skills that it takes to turn yourself into a successful multimillion-dollar brand, if applied elsewhere, could also make for a very successful tyrant. What’s the difference between selling pop music and selling a fascist agenda, when you get down to it? It’s all propaganda.

May 23 2016 3:58 PM

Brazil Says Its Record-Breaking Condom Provision Has Nothing to Do With Zika

 

Every other year, the Olympic Village—the complex that houses athletes, trainers, and officials for the duration of the games—doubles as a pop-up classroom in sex positivity. The world’s fittest people make infamously good use of their weeks in close proximity. Over the years, they’ve littered the rooftops of Seoul with used contraceptives, engaged in orgies in Vancouver hot tubs, flooded Tinder in Sochi, crashed Grindr in London, and been photographed in suggestive poses involving recently acquired medals and eager fans.

 

 

Through it all, tradition has held that host countries flood the Village with condoms, encouraging Olympians to enjoy each other’s Platonically ideal bodies in safety.Slate’s Holly Allen and Lakshmi Varanasi charted the history of latex at the games, from its origins in Seoul—where just 8,500 condoms were available—to a famous shortage in Sydney, which provided 70,000, only to rush in another 20,000 when the original batch ran out. The condom count hovered around 100,000 throughout most of the aughts. London set a record when it filled the Village with 150,000 Durex rubbers in 2012. But late last week, Rio de Janeiro reignited the latex arms race with the announcement that it will provide 450,000 condoms this August—100,000 female condoms, 350,000 male ones, and a bonus of 175,000 packets of lube.

 

May 23 2016 3:34 PM

In Donald Trump’s New Attack Video, Bill Clinton Sucks a Cigar and Women Accuse Him of Rape

Donald Trump continued his attack on Hillary Clinton via Bill Clinton on Monday with a brief Instagram video featuring the voices of women who’ve accused the latter of rape and sexual assault.

One, Juanita Broaddrick, who alleged in 1999 that Bill raped her in 1978, speaks through tears in a clip from a 1999 NBC interview. “No woman should be subjected to it—it was an assault,” recounts Kathleen Willey, who alleged in 1998 that Bill Clinton sexually assaulted her in 1993, in a soundbite from a 2007 statement.

The video centers on an old photo of Bill sucking on a cigar, an image reminiscent of one of the most visceral scenes from Kenneth Starr’s report of the former president's affair with Monica Lewinsky. It ends with a photo of the Clintons and the text “Here we go again?” overlaid with audio of Clinton’s laugh, a favorite target of her detractors that Trump has leveraged in at least two previous ads.

Is Hillary really protecting women?

A video posted by Donald J. Trump (@realdonaldtrump) on

The Trump campaign’s caption—“Is Hillary really protecting women?”—gets at the gist of its strategy going into the general election. If he wants to win against the first viable female presidential candidate, Trump must give female voters a reason to support him over her, but his documented record of rampant misogyny has already given Clinton a head start. 

Lucky for Trump, Clinton has inextricably aligned herself with another famous alleged misogynist, Bill, whose lecherous past (in addition to his racist babblings) could prove to be a weak spot for the Clinton campaign. Monday’s video comes on the heels of a new story alleging that Hillary Clinton helped cover up rapes Bill committed, which the National Enquirer, Trump’s favored news outlet and committed backer, published late last week. Earlier this month, Trump accused Hillary of attacking the women Bill allegedly harassed or slept with:

Nobody in this country was worse than Bill Clinton with women. He was a disaster. He was disaster. … [Hillary] was a total enabler. She would go after these women and destroy their lives. I mean have you ever read what Hillary Clinton did to the women that Bill Clinton had affairs with? And they're going after me with women? Give me a break, folks. Give me a break. Just remember this: She was an unbelievably nasty, mean enabler and what she did to a lot of those women is disgraceful.

On Twitter, too, Trump has accused Bill of “women abuse,” calling into question the validity of Clinton’s “women’s card” for her association with an alleged perpetrator of sexual assault. That Trump would try to to undermine Hillary Clinton’s support among women voters by painting her as an enabler of misogyny when Trump himself has sexually objectified his 1-year-old daughter, repeatedly harassed women, and allegedly raped his wife is particularly phony, even for him.

It’s not clear whether this strategy will work for Trump, anyway. Voters under 35, who make up nearly a third of the electorate, are either too young to care about Bill’s famous infidelities or too liberal to swing for Trump. Then again, harping on Bill's sexual misdoings could be an effective means of galvanizing conservative voters behind an unlikely, unlovable candidate. The average Republican voter is far past old enough to remember the hubbub over Bill’s irresponsible, pervy behavior in the White House and subsequent lies about it; it’s one of the reasons they hate the Clintons in the first place. Since a lack of excitement among Republicans is one of Trump’s biggest weaknesses right now, Bill's history could be exactly the motivator Trump needs.

May 20 2016 5:42 PM

Why Donald Trump’s Supreme Court Shortlist Is Especially Terrifying for Women

In the summer of 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, finding, for the first time, that for-profit corporations could decline to cover birth control for their workers based on religious objections. Women across the land went mental over the five male justices who seemed more solicitous of a scrapbooking company than the women who worked for it.

Now, just two years later, the high court—this time down a member, following the death of Antonin Scalia—heard the follow-on case to Hobby Lobby, Zubik v. Burwell. This one involved religious nonprofits such as hospitals, universities, and charitable groups that don’t want to cover their workers’ birth control and don’t want to fill out a form notifying the government of their objections. The public response has been far more muted.

There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that Zubik is insanely complicated. Another is that this term also has Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, where the stakes are potentially even higher. Yet another crucial reason why no one is talking about Zubik: because the court, hamstrung in its ability to resolve cases without a ninth member, kicked the case away this past week, with a plea that the lower appeals courts and the parties attempt to resolve it on their own.

The future of the Supreme Court—and reproductive freedom, it seems—currently rests on the public spectacle of nothing happening. Decisions not happening aren’t news. Confusing, tied votes aren’t news. Merrick Garland’s not-confirmation hearings are not news. You know what’s news? Donald Trump’s shortlist of Supreme Court nominees. The list shows—maybe even more effectively than the dissents in Hobby Lobby—why women’s reproductive freedom is in real peril, because it shows Trump’s eagerness to seat justices who will do away with the right to choose. Some of the judges on Trump’s wish list are well-known; some are virtually unknown; one has openly mocked Trump on Twitter. But none of them has evinced any interest in protecting a woman’s right to choose.

The list consists of six federal appeals court judges (all appointed by George W. Bush) and five state supreme court justices (all nominated by Republicans). Most are men. All are white. All are extremely young. Almost all of them have impeccable conservative credentials. The cast of characters appears to be crafted to assuage the worries of movement conservatives such as George Will, who wrote last March that “there is every reason to think that Trump understands none of the issues pertinent to the Supreme Court's role in the American regime, and there is no reason to doubt that he would bring to the selection of justices what he brings to all matters—arrogance leavened by frivolousness.” There is nothing frivolous in Trump’s list. Just for instance: One of the judges who made Trump’s cut, William H. Pryor Jr. of the 11th Circuit, has described Roe v. Wade as having manufactured “a constitutional right to murder an unborn child.”

Trump’s shortlist isn’t surprising, since the presumptive Republican nominee has already suggested that women who have abortions should be punished and affirmed that he will nominate justices who want to overturn Roe v. Wade. But it’s still terrifying in a Supreme Court term in which both reproductive rights and statutorily guaranteed birth control are on the docket. It seems even more terrifying in a moment when Oklahoma has just passed a galactically silly, unconstitutional bill making it a felony to provide an abortion in the state, which Gov. Mary Fallin just vetoed. Donald Trump may want to do away with Roe v. Wade once he’s elected, but Oklahoma lawmakers are already working to turn that dream into a reality—you might say they’re making America great again. 

May 20 2016 4:00 PM

Why a Woman Putting on a Chewbacca Mask Is Facebook Live’s Most-Watched Video Ever

BuzzFeed’s exploding watermelon can take a hike. There’s a new most-watched Facebook Live video of all time (and by “all time,” I of course mean “the five-plus months since Facebook Live Video became available to non-celebrities”). The new title belongs to one Candace Payne, whose four-minute video of herself putting on a noise-making Chewbacca mask and laughing hysterically in a car has, as of this writing, been viewed more than 52,000,000 times since it was originally live-streamed Thursday afternoon.

Payne’s mini-documentary was an unlikely candidate to become a record-setting viral video. Payne is not famous. The video doesn’t contain some mind-blowing life hack. There’s not even really a surprise for people who didn’t watch it live, because as soon as her video started getting social traction, sites started posting it under headlines like “This Woman’s Chewbacca Mask Made Her Laugh Hysterically!” (Way to ruin the ending, Just Jared.)

May 20 2016 3:00 PM

If You Left the Workforce to Have Children, It’s Better to Say So in a Job Interview

For women who step away from the workforce to have children, trying to return can come with anxieties. First and foremost: Do you ignore the résumé gap? Camouflage it with part-time or volunteer commitments? Pre-empt any questions by just telling the truth?

A straightforward explanation is not only the simplest option but also the best one, according to a study by two Vanderbilt Law School economists, which will be presented at the American Law and Economics Association Friday and published in the next issue of the University of Pennsylvania Law Review. The authors recruited more than 3,000 participants to play the role of “potential employers” and choose between two equally qualified female candidates, both of whom had spent the last decade unemployed. When one candidate gave personal reasons to explain her re-entry into the workforce—her children were in school and no longer needed her at home, or her financial situation had changed in the aftermath of a divorce—participants were 30 to 40 percent more likely to “hire” her over a candidate who stayed silent about her circumstances. “The number of people who preferred the woman who explained her résumé gap was staggering,” one of the authors, Joni Hersch, told the New York Times. “I was shocked.”

The authors argue that their findings point toward a necessary structural change. The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission currently discourages employers from asking about candidates’ family lives, warning, “Questions about marital status and number and ages of children are frequently used to discriminate against women and may violate Title VII [of the Civil Rights Act] if used to deny or limit employment opportunities.” Hersch and her co-author, Jennifer Shinall, believe that conversations about spouses and children should be considered as natural and appropriate to an interview as discussion of “athletic pursuits, travel, hobbies,” all of which can “help employers and applicants understand whether there is a fit with the workplace culture.” The EEOC, they say, should encourage “information sharing” about potential employees' family needs—as it does between employers and applicants with disabilities, who are entitled to “reasonable accommodation” under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Right now, employers might worry that even asking about an employment gap is a ‘leading question’ ” and would be frowned upon under the EEOC guidelines, Shinall told me. Applicants, though not prohibited from volunteering information, pick up on the message that discussion of family is uniquely off-limits. Hersch and Shinall argue that breaking down this particular set of expectations could chip away at the stigma attached to the female-inflected work of childrearing. What’s more, it could push workplaces toward more progressive policies. “Some industries, such as law, have been particularly resistant to providing accommodation in terms of work-family balance and job flexibility,” says Shinall. “If there’s an increased flow of information at the interview stage, that lets employers know how many people need these accommodations to do their jobs well.” Research on the way inflexible workplaces penalize women—to whom the majority of childcare responsibilities still fall—confirms that companies would hear more of this message if employees considered the conversation less risky.

But women are often reticent for a reason. Some experts worry that Hersch and Shinall’s advice to the EEOC could backfire. Ofer Sharone, a sociologist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, told the Times that he agreed with the new study’s recommendations in a narrow sense: For women with a résumé gap, offering an explanation is better than leaving an interviewer guessing. But in a broader sense, if employers were to treat family obligations as a standard line of inquiry for applicants of all genders, the results would probably “greatly exacerbate” discrimination against women.

“As a job applicant, no one wants to be the only applicant volunteering this information—there’s strength in numbers,” Shinall allowed. “We want to see the EEOC encourage lots of employers and employees to be having these conversations.” It’s easy to endorse her vision of a world in which job applicants can air their caretaking responsibilities, confident that they will receive “reasonable accommodation” rather than a discriminatory write-off in exchange. The question of how to get there—and of whether parents, and especially women, should hasten that day’s arrival by volunteering information—brings to mind the old conundrum about the chicken and the egg. Hersch and Shinall’s new study suggests at least a limited amount of sure footing on which women can proceed: When a résumé, rather than an employer, raises questions, speaking up is probably safer than silence. 

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