The XX Factor
What Women Really Think

Feb. 8 2017 6:56 PM

Paying Low-Income Moms to Breastfeed Might Raise Breastfeeding Rates, But Is It Ethical?


The benefits of breastfeeding are often exaggerated, but everyone can agree that women should have the resources to breastfeed their infants if they so choose. Unfortunately, many women don’t have those resources, which is part of the reason that low-income women are far less likely to breastfeed than their wealthier counterparts. (Cultural norms also play a role.) Public health advocates are constantly seeking new ways to boost breastfeeding rates among this population and have implemented a variety of educational and support programs in order to do so.

One of the largest efforts to get more low-income women to breastfeed is part of the Women, Infants, and Children Program. This federal nutrition assistance program, which serves around 8 million moms and young children, incentivizes breastfeeding by offering those who do it “a greater quantity and variety of foods” and “longer participation in the program.” Now a new study, recently published in Pediatrics, explores what would happen if WIC upped the ante and gave breastfeeding moms a cash bonus as well. The study’s authors found that this extra compensation was effective in raising breastfeeding rates, but questions about the ethics of cash incentives remain.

Feb. 8 2017 5:52 PM

Russia Decriminalized Domestic Violence With Support from the Russian Orthodox Church

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law on Tuesday an amendment that decriminalizes domestic violence, making physical abuse of a spouse, child, or elder parent punishable by a monetary fine rather than time in prison. Both houses of Russian parliament approved the measure handily—the first reading of the amendment in the lower house passed 386 to one.

Under the new law, a person can beat his spouse or child until she’s bloodied and bruised, and as long as her injuries don’t require a hospital stay, he’ll get hit with a fine if his victim presses charges. The most jail time he’ll serve will be 15 days. Previously, domestic abusers faced a maximum of two years in prison. The amendment offers domestic abusers this easy out as long as they don’t commit more than one severe beating a year.

Feb. 8 2017 2:58 PM

Jill Biden’s Rate My Professors Page Is a Strangely Comforting Place in Perilous Times

Jill Biden was reportedly the first person to maintain a paying job during her tenure as second lady. By the time her husband became Barack Obama’s running mate, she had been a writing instructor at a Delaware community college for well over a decade, and she continued teaching throughout the 2008 campaign. When her husband assumed the vice presidency, she moved to Washington and began teaching at Northern Virginia Community College as an adjunct. A representative for the college confirmed she is still teaching there this semester.

“She does the things that regular faculty members do,” an administrator told the Chronicle of Higher Education in 2012. That includes attending faculty meetings, serving on committees, and holding office hours.

Luckily for America, it also includes being subjected to the slings and arrows of Rate My Professors. The website, founded in 1999, invites college students to anonymously review their instructors and weigh in on important matters like their attendance policy, how much homework they give, and how hot they are. And Dr. Jill Biden’s Rate My Professors page is strangely comforting space in perilous times.

Feb. 8 2017 2:11 PM

Mitch McConnell Inadvertently Coined the Latest Feminist Catchphrase: “She Persisted”

Mitch McConnell and his fellow Senate Republicans voted Tuesday evening to stop Elizabeth Warren from speaking during the debate over Jeff Sessions’ nomination for attorney general. Warren was reading aloud from a scathing 1986 letter Coretta Scott King wrote opposing Sessions as a potential federal judge, when McConnell interrupted her mid-sentence to invoke a rule that prevents senators from ascribing “unbecoming” conduct to another senator.

“She was warned,” McConnell said on the Senate floor after the confrontation. “She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

It’s hard to imagine a pithier encapsulation of nearly every struggle for justice in the history of humanity. Without even trying, McConnell wrote the future epitaph of hundreds of people who have the phrase “nasty woman” in their Twitter bios.

Feb. 7 2017 6:03 PM

Why Melania Trump’s Own Lawyer Is Arguing She Would Have Made Millions Exploiting Her Role

On Monday, First Lady of the United States Melania Trump refiled a defamation suit against Mail Media, owner of the Daily Mail, over a story suggesting that she had once worked as an escort. Because she is undoubtedly a public figure, Melania will need to prove that the Daily Mail defamed her intentionally, or with reckless disregard for the truth, in order to secure a legal victory.

This high bar is so difficult to clear that you might wonder why Melania doesn’t simply write off the now-retracted allegations as the imprudent musings of a sleazy tabloid. The lawsuit itself gives one remarkable answer to this question: it claims the Daily Mail story harmed Melania’s “unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to launch a new commercial brand as First Lady that would have made her millions on everything from clothes to jewelry to skin care products.

Plaintiff had the unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as an extremely famous and well-known person, as well as a former professional model and brand spokesperson, and successful businesswoman, to launch a broad-based commercial brand in multiple product categories, each of which could have garnered multi-million dollar business relationships for a multi-year term during which Plaintiff is one of the most photographed women in the world.

Translation: The First Lady’s perks include highly lucrative business opportunities, and the Daily Mail chased away those opportunities by defaming Melania.

Ethics watchdogs and good-government types who have been sounding the alarm for months about conflicts of interest posed by the first family’s private business ventures see the suit as the latest red flag in a series of them.

“I don’t know why everybody is so surprised,” Norm Eisen, who served as the chief ethics lawyer for the Obama White House, told Slate by email on Tuesday.

Feb. 7 2017 5:09 PM

Trump’s Saturday Night Live Fixation Reveals the Cracks in His Fragile Masculinity

It’s a comforting feeling to know that even when loved ones are far away, we all gaze at the same moon. By watching Saturday Night Live on NBC, Americans can capture that same sense of closeness, knowing that their president is doing the same exact thing.

Since October, when then-candidate Donald Trump tweeted that it was “time to retire the boring and unfunny show” because “Alec Baldwin['s] portrayal stinks,” interested observers have waited impatiently each Sunday morning for the president’s thoughts on the previous night’s sketches about him. This week, after Melissa McCarthy’s much-lauded portrayal of White House press secretary Sean Spicer, Trump was uncharacteristically silent.

Feb. 7 2017 3:51 PM

The Kylie Jenner–Kylie Minogue Trademark Dispute Was a Battle of the Old School vs. the New

No trademark dispute in recent memory has been as Kylie contentious as the one between teen reality celebrity Kylie Jenner and pop star Kylie Minogue over their shared moniker. But for now, Minogue fans have an excuse to shadily hum “Can’t Get You Outta My Head” in the presence of anyone who’s Team Jenner, because this round went to the Australian singer.

The battle began in 2015 when Jenner first tried to register the “term” “Kylie” as a trademark. Last year, Minogue’s team shot back with a notice of opposition. Game, set, match, Kylie, said one Kylie to the other. But then last month, Minogue’s people withdrew the opposition—according to the BBC, this could mean that the two sides reached a settlement. Some outlets are reporting that Jenner’s trademark application was indeed rejected by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. In any case, Kylie seems to have won this one—Minogue, that is.

Minogue first shot to fame as a soap star in Australia, following that up with her 1988 hit song “Locomotion” and a career total of 65 million albums sold.* In documents obtained by Page Six, her team referred to Jenner as a “secondary reality television personality” with the potential to damage Minogue’s successful brand—her Wikipedia page says she’s “often known simply as Kylie,” after all.

It’s true that, as the youngest sibling of the Kardashian family, Kylie Jenner owes much of her fame to having grown up in front of cameras on Keeping Up With the Kardashians. But it’s also true that only an old-school pop star would consider “reality television personality” a dig in light of the way Jenner and her family have reinvented modern fame. Jenner has lately become a beauty mogul, hawking her lip kits far and wide on social media, and had planned to use the trademark to further her business interests.

Even though Minogue emerged victorious from this battle, and was first to plant her flag for Kylies on the internet when she purchased in 1996 (a year before Jenner was born), one need only google-search “Kylie” to see that Jenner may be the ultimate champion, as much as dance-pop loyalists might hate to admit it. Jenner dominates search and image results and is one of the most famous people in her generation in a society that is obsessed with youth. Sorry, Kylie (Minogue). It’s Kylie (Jenner’s) world, and you’re just making some of the best dance anthems of all time in it. Still, one does hate to see Kylies fighting in this climate that only seeks to divide Kylies rather than unite them. The real war will be won when the two Kylies combine forces, for the good of plump lips and pop beats everywhere.

*Correction, Feb. 9: This post originally misstated that Minogue starred in a soap in the U.K. It was an Australian soap.

Feb. 6 2017 6:04 PM

Snapchat Only Has One Woman on Its Board: Joanna Coles, Who Gets Paid the Least


Snap Inc., the parent company of Snapchat, is giving investors the Donald Trump of initial public offerings. The company is banking on its fame to drown out criticism of its intent to deprive shareholders of voting power. Its main product enables off-the-cuff expressions of vulgarity. And observers have reason to believe Snap’s leaders treat women like they’re less valuable than men.



The company made its initial filing last week, revealing that its nine-person board of directors has only one woman: Joanna Coles, chief content officer of Hearst Magazines and former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire. Fortune reports that, of the five directors who are being paid for their roles, Coles made the least money in 2016 by an entire decimal place.


Feb. 6 2017 5:24 PM

Malia Obama in Mom Jeans, a Conundrum for These Fraught Times

In the flood of political news from last week, you may have missed this important nugget: Malia Obama wore mom jeans to her internship in New York City. Though Malia’s official reign as first teen ended last month with her father’s term in the White House, she continues to hold, along with her sister Sasha, the unofficial distinction of coolest teen in the land. With these fateful mom jeans, though, she seems to have ascended to a fashion plane not comprehensible to mere mortals. Because if it wasn’t blasphemy to even think such a thing, I might venture to say that … I don’t … get … these jeans?

Feb. 6 2017 3:57 PM

All Retailers Should Drop Ivanka Trump’s Clothing and Jewelry Lines

Last week, Racked reported that Nordstrom was dropping the Ivanka Trump clothing label from its physical and online stores. As of Friday, it looked like Neiman Marcus was following suit, pulling Ivanka Trump–branded jewelry from its website and at least one store.

Though Nordstrom was the top target of Grab Your Wallet, a campaign that began in October to organize boycotts of companies affiliated with the Trump family, both retailers spun their inventory shifts in terms of business performance, not politics. “We’ve got thousands of brands … each year we cut about 10 percent and refresh our assortment with about the same amount,” a Nordstrom representative said to Racked. “In this case, based on the brand’s performance, we’ve decided not to buy it for this season.” In a statement, a Neiman Marcus spokesperson didn’t confirm that Ivanka’s line was out for good, but clarified that all the brand’s jewelry it carried was consigned—owned by the vendor but given shelf space in the store—and brand inventory gets regularly shaken up “based on productivity.”