The XX Factor
What Women Really Think

Dec. 1 2016 12:32 PM

Teachers Say Trump’s Election Is Terrifying Their Students

The Daily Show mocked Trump this week for having the mind of a toddler. Anderson Cooper has compared him to a 5-year-old to his face. Politico’s Jack Shafer, who has called Trump a two-year-old, analyzed his language last year and concluded that he talks like a third- or a fourth-grader; a column in the Washington Post this year observed that he “speaks like a sixth-grader.” Rolling Stone said he’s “the perfect candidate for a seventh-grade kid.”

It should be no surprise, then, that Trump’s election is having an influence on his emotional and intellectual peers. A large new survey of K-12 educators across the country finds that the election results are making a “profoundly negative impact on schools and students.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center conducted the survey in the days after the election, and 90 percent of the educators who responded have seen their students’ mood and behavior negatively affected by the election of Donald Trump. Eight in 10 reported heightened anxiety among black students, immigrants, Muslims, and LGBTQ students. And those anxieties are perfectly reasonable: Four in 10 educators have heard derogatory language directed at marginalized students, and about 25 percent described specific episodes of bigotry connected to the election. The online survey was informal and didn’t draw on a nationally representative sample, but more than 10,000 teachers, counselors, administrators, and other school employees responded.

Dec. 1 2016 7:47 AM

How Trumpcare Could Harm Pregnant Women

A federal government helmed by Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and Georgia Rep. Tom Price, the president-elect’s recent selection for secretary of health and human services, is not one women can count on. Our bodies are now at the mercy of a group of men who are anti-contraception, anti-abortion, and anti-Obamacare—legislation that prevented insurers from treating lady parts like an inconvenience.

Some women are preparing for a potentially draconian future by getting long-acting birth control such as IUDs before they become more expensive for many and possibly illegal for all. Unfortunately for pregnant women, or those who would like to become so in the next four years, there is no such 11th-hour measure available. Many of us, including this five-months-pregnant writer, have no choice but to have our babies in the next four years, during which time maternity and pediatric care might become less comprehensive and more expensive.

The Affordable Care Act, which Trump and Price have promised to scrap, substantially improved maternity coverage. Before Obamacare, many insurers didn’t cover maternity care. A 2013 report from the National Women’s Law Center found that just 12 percent of individual market plans included maternity benefits. Insurers often charged women more than what they charged men for the same coverage, even if the policy didn’t include maternity care. Also, pregnancy was considered a pre-existing condition, meaning that it could prevent women from getting insurance in 45 states. The average birth in the United States costs $18,329. Before Obamacare, most group plans, which the majority of Americans are on, were required to cover maternity care under the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

Obamacare made maternity care one of the 10 essential health benefits that all individual plans must cover. All plans offered on the marketplace are now required to cover pregnancy, maternity, and newborn care, and most of them are also required to cover additional preventive services, including screening for gestational diabetes and breast-feeding support and supplies such as breast pumps. The Affordable Care Act also amended the Fair Labor Standards Act, which covers most hourly wage–earning and some salaried employees, to require employers to better accommodate nursing employees. These workers “must be given ‘reasonable’ break time to pump for a breastfeeding child, as frequently as needed by the nursing mother, for up to 1 year after the child’s birth” and be provided with a private space to pump that is not a bathroom. Lastly, Obamacare also funded initiatives aimed at reducing preterm birth, which have so far been effective.

The Affordable Care Act also improved pediatric care and required that all marketplace plans and many others cover things such as vaccinations, behavioral assessments, and autism screening. Newborns are now guaranteed preventive gonorrhea treatment as well as screening for congenital hypothyroidism, hearing problems, phenylketonuria, and sickle cell anemia.

As Sarah Kliff points out at Vox, Price’s plan to replace Obamacare, the Empowering Patients First Act, “eliminates the essential health benefits package, which mandated that all insurers cover a set of 10 different types of care including maternity services and pediatric care.” Paul Ryan’s comparatively more generous plan does the same.

Anti-abortion activists like Price tend to cloak their beliefs in a desire to protect “innocent human life.” But their previous inaction and current silence on making sure every pregnant woman and newborn is provided with high-quality maternity care suggests otherwise. Perhaps they will surprise us all and proceed in a more consistent manner, bringing equal fervor to their protection of the fetuses of women who choose to have abortions as they do to those fetuses of women who would like to count on safe, and affordable, pregnancy and delivery. Unfortunately, we’ve got little reason to believe that this will be the case.

Nov. 30 2016 5:48 PM

Vagisil’s New Commercial About Dry Vaginas Is Something Else

It’s tough to decide how to feel about Vagisil’s new animated commercial about dry vaginas. The spot features four women telling tales of painful sex and aging genitals over brunch. One is too ashamed to even say the word vagina; one likes to overshare; one says she’s not into sex since she had a kid; and one recounts a harrowing experience with lube. In case you didn’t pick up on the easy reference point, the ad is called “No Sex in the City.” Because these four women are in the desert, talking about dehydrated vaginas.

On the plus side, it’s nice to see an ad for a vaginal product directly addressing the organ onto which the product is applied instead of leaning on images of women euphemistically leaping about in flowing scarves. A frank discussion about dry sex as painful sex (one of the women graphically describes her vagina as “like sandpaper”) is a good thing.

On the down side—what even is the product being sold here? Vagisil calls it an “internal moisturizing gel,” which sounds an awful lot like lube. But two ladies in the commercial recommend against lube; one declines to explain exactly what went wrong when she tried it, just hinting that it “did not go well—a long and very messy story.” According to the Vagisil site, the gel uses hyaluronic acid, a moisturizing ingredient in many anti-aging skin creams, to keep a vagina moisturized for three days at a time with one application. No word on whether it’s enough to totally preclude the need for lube on Day 3, or whether it’s comfortable to have a completely lubed-up vagina at all times.

The commercial also oozes a heavy flow of vagina puns. One woman calls the genitals of elderly women “granginas” and suggests her friends use their “ivaginations” to solve the dryness issue. Someone uses the word vagician and jokes that her friend’s adequately lubed vagina is “the most vagical place on Earth.”

She also contends that every woman needs a “vagine regime”—and therein lies my main reason for side-eyeing this ad. Everyone does not need a vagine regime; the vagina is a self-cleaning, self-lubing organ that does not generally need regular maintenance products from the drugstore. Like most ads for over-the-counter vaginal creams, sprays, and washes, this one is designed to convince women there’s a problem with their vaginas, that just about every person with a vagina has that problem, and that they all use X lotion or cleansing product to solve it. Dry sex is a problem easily solved with lube, during sex; there’s no need for most women to use a twice-weekly vaginal moisturizer for their entire lives.

“The first time [dry vagina] happened to me, I thought my vagina was broken,” one lady says in the video. If you’re reading this, dry vagina character, please take note: IT WASN’T! No matter what Vagisil and Issa Rae’s delightful rap say, there’s no such thing as a broken pussy.

Nov. 30 2016 4:24 PM

A Trump Clone in the Netherlands Might Successfully Pass a Burqa Ban

Members of the Dutch Parliament voted on Tuesday to ban burqas, niqabs, and other face coverings in schools, health care facilities, government buildings, and on public transportation. The House of Representatives passed the measure by a wide margin, with 132 of the 150 members voting in favor of the partial ban. The Senate must still approve the bill before it’s signed into law.

According to some estimates, fewer than 500 women in the Netherlands wear burqas, and many of them only wear the garments on certain occasions. The Associated Press reports that if the proposed ban becomes law, a violation would run one of these women 400 euros, around $424.

Burqas, which fully cover the face and body, and niqabs, which leave the eyes uncovered, are worn by some conservative Muslim women as part of their religious practice. The Netherlands’ right-wing Freedom Party, a minority party that advocates anti-Islamic policies and rhetoric, has backed burqa bans for years. Government entities in the Netherlands passed partial burqa bans in 2012 and 2015, but they didn’t stick. Supporters of these bans say people must be able to see one another’s faces in hospitals and on government property for safety reasons.

But issuing a blanket condemnation of certain religious garments is not a good-faith response to a general security threat. There is no inherent danger in wearing a burqa or any other face covering; laws that stigmatize Muslim women only encourage harassment and violence, as the rash of French burkini bans this summer showed. Advocates of the ban note that the proposed law also prohibits ski masks and motorcycle helmets. In an interview with Politico about the 2015 ban, Muslim artist and activist Ayesha Akhtar dismissed that as a transparent attempt to head off accusations of discrimination against Muslim women. “I’m curious to know,” she said, “Is there an issue with people wearing helmets and ski masks in Dutch hospitals, schools, and government buildings?”

Geert Wilders, the head of the Freedom Party, doesn’t even bother with that pretense. On Twitter on Tuesday, the man who looks and acts like the three-way child of Martin Shkreli, Milo Yiannopoulos, and Draco Malfoy, wrote that a ban that doesn’t outlaw burqas in every public space doesn’t go far enough. When Wilders’ party wins the Dutch election in March, he tweeted, “I will implement a full burka ban. #deislamize.”

Wilders is currently facing charges of discrimination and “inciting racial hatred” for threatening the Netherlands’ Moroccan communities at a 2014 rally. He asked attendees if they wanted fewer Moroccan people in their country, leading them in a chant of “Fewer! Fewer! Fewer!” (Catchy, eh?) “We’ll take care of that,” Wilders assured them.

It will surprise no one to learn that Wilders is an avid Donald Trump fanboy. “The people are taking their country back,” he tweeted on election night. “So will we.” (Also: “Lots of respect for Sean Hannity.”) The guy has even stolen Trump’s slogan! Get your own Islamophobic Twitter-obsessed fascist, Netherlands!

Nov. 30 2016 2:54 PM

Vaccine Skeptics Are Excited About Donald Trump’s Presidency

They say you can judge a man by his friends. Donald Trump’s gaggle of pals and fans includes David Duke, Vladimir Putin, and Tom Brady. We can now add vaccine truther Andrew Wakefield to that list.

As health and medicine publication STAT reports, the disgraced British doctor and other vaccine conspiracists are feeling optimistic about Trump’s presidency. “For the first time in a long time, I feel very positive about this, because Donald Trump is not beholden to the pharmaceutical industry,” Wakefield told STAT. “He didn’t rely upon [drug makers] to get him elected. And he’s a man who seems to speak his mind and act accordingly. So we shall see.”

Wakefield is the most notorious vaccine skeptic in the world, because his activism has been the most influential, which is to say, the most devastating to public health. In 1998, the gastroenterologist published a small study in the Lancet, a prominent British medical journal, that proposed a connection between autism and the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine. Eventually, the paper was debunked, Wakefield’s medical license was revoked, and the Lancet retracted the paper on the grounds that key information had been falsified. But the damage had already been done. The spurious connection between vaccines and autism continues to suppress vaccination rates in many areas, leading to outbreaks of deadly and preventable diseases.


Nov. 30 2016 1:43 PM

Abortion Rights Groups Challenge Restrictions in Alaska, Missouri, North Carolina

A trio of reproductive-rights organizations is challenging state-level abortion regulations in Alaska, Missouri, and North Carolina, counting on the Supreme Court’s decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt to back up their claim that these restrictions on abortion access serve no medical purpose.

The three new lawsuits, filed by Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Center for Reproductive Rights, allege that the regulations rest on false claims of safeguarding women while they actually force women to travel long distances, often across state lines, to get constitutionally protected reproductive health care.

In a press call on Wednesday, Julie Rikelman, the Center for Reproductive Rights’ litigation director, called the litigation a “natural next step” after the Whole Woman’s Health decision. As the organizations prepare for the havoc Donald Trump’s administration promises to wreak on reproductive rights, Rikelman said, they are “going on the offensive” to defend abortion access.

In Alaska, a suit filed in state court is challenging longstanding regulations that effectively ban outpatient abortion procedures after the first trimester, requiring that second-trimester abortions be performed in hospitals. The laws on the books require an abortion provider to have an available blood supply and be staffed for major surgery, neither of which is necessary for any abortion procedure. These restrictions prevent regular clinics from providing abortions after the first trimester, and because of Alaska’s remote location, women who need an abortion later in their pregnancies must fly out of state to get the care they need. Similar hospitalization laws have been struck down or invalidated in other states.

The Missouri regulations that Planned Parenthood is seeking to overturn in federal court are nearly identical to the Texas restrictions the Supreme Court axed in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt: laws that require abortion providers to gain admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and retrofit their facilities to meet the exacting standards of a surgical center. Missouri was the first state to pass these kinds of regulations, setting off a chain of anti-abortion activists in other states pushing similar laws under the guise of protecting women.

Justice Stephen Breyer’s opinion in Whole Woman’s Health specifically rejected these false premises for abortion restrictions, noting that Texas had “no significant health-related problem for [the restrictions] to cure,” since abortions are remarkably safe and the rare complication usually doesn’t arise until after the patient has gone home. Forcing women to travel long distances to precious few (and thus overburdened) facilities “would be harmful to, not supportive of, women’s health,” he wrote.

These and other medical restrictions targeted at abortion clinics have made Missouri’s reproductive health climate so hostile, there’s only one abortion provider left in the state. The new Missouri suit, filed in federal court, alleges that there are four additional Planned Parenthood health centers in the state that currently only provide contraceptive and other health services but would readily offer abortion care if the challenged regulations were lifted.

The third lawsuit announced today, filed in federal court, targets a North Carolina law that bans abortions after 20 weeks’ gestation, about a month before the viability threshold established in Roe v. Wade. Earlier this year, that law was amended with a very narrow exception for a medical emergency, meaning that a physician who would perform an abortion to safeguard the health of the pregnant patient would have to wait until her medical condition worsened to a particular point of severity before providing a necessary abortion.

Jennifer Dalven, director of the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, said these lawsuits are just “the first wave” of litigation the organizations are preparing to bring to expand and protect abortion access at the state level.

Nov. 29 2016 6:11 PM

Lesbian Motorcyclists Delivering Donor Breast Milk Are the Absolute Best


Proving that lesbians in leather are truly the solution to life’s most pressing quandaries, the New York Post has produced a lovely video about a women’s motorcycle group that has started delivering donor breast milk to babies who need it.



According to Julie Bouchet-Horowitz, the head of Hastings-on-Hudson’s New York Milk Bank, motorcycles are the best way to get breast milk in and out of Manhattan, cutting through traffic backup in time for fresh deliveries to hungry infants. And if you’re going to get your baby’s milk from a biker, wouldn’t you want it to be from a gentle butch in a bucket hat or a tough dyke with a domino neck tattoo? Yes, you would.


Nov. 29 2016 5:49 PM

Trump’s First Step Toward Impeding Birth Control Access Is Making Tom Price HHS Secretary

Donald Trump and Mike Pence’s inevitable attack on women’s health care got a little more real Tuesday morning when the president-elect tapped Rep. Tom Price as Secretary of Health and Human Services.

The vocal Obamacare opponent, a Republican who’s represented a Georgia district since 2005, has established himself as a hardline anti-abortion, anti-contraception extremist during his time in Congress. During his first term, Price co-sponsored a piece of legislation called the “Right to Life Act,” which would have banned abortion in nearly every circumstance, potentially prohibited most types of contraception and in vitro fertilization, and stymied stem cell research.

Nov. 29 2016 4:02 PM

The Biggest Mystery on Westworld Is Whether Bernard Is Secretly Jacked

Westworld fans have been speculating for just about the whole first season of the show that Jeffrey Wright’s character, Bernard, wasn’t what he seemed. [Stop reading here if you don’t want to hear any spoilers.] The past couple episodes have confirmed that and then some—not only is Barnard a host, but he’s also something like a reincarnation of Arnold, one of the park’s creators. Bernarnold! We know a lot more about him now than we did in the pilot episode, it’s true, but some unanswered questions remain, chief among them being: Is Bernard, and the actor who plays him, a totally jacked hunk of man-meat?

Nov. 29 2016 1:35 PM

Westworld Star Evan Rachel Wood Describes Being Raped Twice in Emotional Note

On Monday afternoon, Westworld star Evan Rachel Wood posted a note on Twitter explaining that she’s been raped twice in her life and still grapples with the consequences. “The trauma of a few minutes can turn into a lifetime of fighting for yourself,” she wrote. “It’s not that you can’t get over it, it’s just that you are never the same, or maybe I just haven’t gotten there yet.”