The XX Factor
What Women Really Think

Oct. 24 2016 3:27 PM

Federal Judge Rules for Free the Nipple, Holds Topless Ban May Violate U.S. Constitution

A woman who publicly displays her nipples in Fort Collins, Colorado, can be arrested and imprisoned for 180 days. A man who publicly displays his nipples in Fort Collins cannot be arrested at all, because he isn’t breaking the law. Free the Nipple, an advocacy group that opposes sex-specific breast-exposure laws, is challenging the ordinance as a violation of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, which generally bars sex discrimination. Fort Collins asked U.S. District Judge R. Brooke Jackson to toss out the lawsuit. But on Oct. 20, Jackson refused, holding that Free the Nipple had “adequately stated a claim under the Fourteenth Amendment” and allowing the case to proceed.

This litigation is an excellent test of the judiciary’s commitment to eradicate sex discrimination that perpetuates repressive stereotypes under the guise of protecting public morality. Fort Collins could not defend its ordinance without reverting to reactionary presumptions: The city insisted that female breast exposure violates “the values of the Fort Collins community, including its sense of decency and family”; that women exposing their nipples “impede the right of others to enjoy public spaces”; and that exposed female breasts constitute “pornography.” Free the Nipple counters that these defenses only further demonstrate the unconstitutionality of the ordinance, proving that it is used “to perpetuate stereotypes about girls and women”—specifically, that society considers women and their breasts to be “primarily objects of sexual desire.”

Oct. 24 2016 8:32 AM

Male Law Partners Make 44 Percent More Than Female Ones

Male partners at major U.S. law firms make 44 percent more than their female peers, in part because male partners bring in more money in new business—or get more credit for doing so.

According to a recent survey of 2,100 law partners from legal search firm Major, Lindsey & Africa, the average male partner makes $949,000 a year; female partners earn an average of $659,000. In 2014, that gap was even larger, at 47 percent. Female compensation has increased 24 percent since then, and male compensation has risen 22 percent.


Among all partners, a 24 percent plurality said the main reason for any dissatisfaction with their pay was “cronyism.” This is one major clue to the alarmingly wide wage gap between men and women who lead their law firms. Men pass leads onto their male buddies or mentees and are more likely to recognize the good work of those boys’ club members. Then there’s the gendered issue of getting credit, with which most of us are probably familiar by now: Men demand it for themselves, and people readily give it to them, while women boost others.

Jeffrey A. Lowe, a Major, Lindsey & Africa leader, told the New York Times that partners pointed to “origination”—bringing new cases to the firm—as the top factor in their industry’s wage gap. The new report found that female partners originated an annual average of $1.73 million in business; male ones brought in an average of $2.59 million each. Partners’ compensation depends in part on how much money they bring to their firms each year, so women end up making much less. The Times notes that friendly connections from law school and even earlier have a major impact on legal representation, giving men with mostly male networks a leg up when it comes to finding new clients or getting more business from existing ones.

Male partners also work about 70 hours more each year than female partners and bill at higher rates: an average of $701 an hour to female partners’ $636. But here’s one more potential clue to help explain the unconscionable wage gap in partner pay: The Major, Lindsey & Africa report capitalizes the word “Female,” a jarring stylistic decision, but leaves “male” in all lowercase. When men are treated as normal lawyers while women are treated like alien aberrations in their own field, it’s not hard to guess who gets the smoother path to the top.

Oct. 21 2016 3:36 PM

CDC: Preteens Only Need Two Rounds of the HPV Vaccine, Not Three

Preteens only need to get two doses of the HPV vaccine, not the previously recommended three, according to new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On Wednesday, the CDC’s immunization advisory panel voted, and CDC Director Tom Frieden agreed, to recommend the two-round schedule for adolescents aged 11 to 12.

Experts hope that the abbreviated vaccination schedule will encourage more parents to get their kids the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which protects against strains of the virus that can cause genital warts and cervical, anal, head, and neck cancers. The CDC and the immunization advisory panel made their decision after reviewing clinical trials in which two doses of the HPV vaccine in people aged 9-14 years triggered an immune response greater than or equal to that triggered by three doses in people aged 16-26 years.


The CDC has pegged the 11-12 age range as the optimal period to vaccinate against HPV, because those preteens are going to the doctor for meningitis and Tdap shots anyway, their immune responses are high, and they likely haven’t become sexually active (and thus exposed to HPV) yet. But the new guidelines allow for just two doses of the HPV vaccine, administered between six months and a year apart, for adolescents as young as 9 and as old as 14.  Those who get the vaccine between 15 and 26 years of age will still need three doses within a single six-month period.

Adolescents already sometimes drop off after the first or second dose of the vaccine. In 2014, 60 percent of girls aged 13-17 had gotten at least one round of the vaccine, but only 40 percent had completed the set of three doses. (Only 42 percent of adolescent boys had gotten at least one dose.) Making it seem easier to complete the cycle of shots will hopefully encourage more parents to protect their kids from developing HPV-related cancers, which are on the rise in the U.S., when they get older.

Still, one of the main barriers to improving the nation’s HPV vaccination rates, which lag well behind those of other developed countries, is a widespread fear of teen sexuality. This leads parents to assume, against all evidence, that getting a shot to prevent a sexually transmitted virus will encourage teens to have more sex. The prospect of making two trips to the doctor’s office instead of three is nice, but when parents are making emotion-driven decisions that will affect their children’s health for a lifetime, it may not be enough to sway them.

Oct. 21 2016 1:58 PM

Bush-Appointed Federal Judge Blocks Mississippi From Defunding Planned Parenthood

States eager to defund Planned Parenthood might as well just take several hundred thousand dollars from government coffers and set them on fire. Mississippi learned this lesson on Thursday, when U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan III (a George W. Bush appointee) blocked the state’s attempt to ban Medicaid reimbursements to several Planned Parenthood-affiliated clinics—none of which, by the way, perform abortions. In a brief ruling, Jordan arrived at the same conclusion reached by every other court to consider this question: State-level efforts to defund Planned Parenthood are obviously illegal. Whether Mississippi will continue to burn money on its futile court battle, like Ohio, or simply give up, like Florida, remains to be seen.

There are two reasons why these state-level efforts to defund Planned Parenthood keep failing in court. The first reason—and the one relied upon by Jordan—is that they directly violate federal law. Medicaid’s “free choice of provider” requirement allows patients to obtain medical care from any facility that is “qualified to perform the service or services required.” States are permitted to set “reasonable standards relating to the qualifications of providers,” but these qualifications must pertain to the facility’s ability to perform safe, competent, legal care. An ideological disagreement with the facility’s affiliates, like opposition to abortion, is not relevant to a provider’s “qualifications.”

Oct. 21 2016 12:39 PM

The NFL Still Doesn’t Care About Domestic Violence

By his own admission, New York Giants kicker Josh Brown abused his wife for years, confessing in newly released police documents that he saw himself as “God basically” and his now ex-wife Molly as his “slave.”

The documents, which comprise police reports, private journal entries, photos, emails, and letters that track Brown’s repeated attacks against his wife—some of them in front of their children—are shocking and disturbing. But even more unsettling is the NFL’s willingness to stay in the dark about the abuse.

Oct. 21 2016 11:42 AM

GOP Congressman: “Sometimes a Lady Needs to Be Told When She’s Being Nasty”

Republican Rep. Brian Babin believes Donald Trump was right to call Hillary Clinton “such a nasty woman” during Wednesday’s presidential debate.

“You know what, she’s saying some nasty things,” Babin said on Fox News Radio’s Alan Colmes Show on Thursday evening. Colmes then asked if Trump should have said what he said.


“Well, I’m a genteel Southerner, Alan,” Babin said.

Colmes pressed him: “So that means no?”

“No,” Babin said. “I think sometimes a lady needs to be told when she’s being nasty. I do.”

There are a few peculiar things about Babin’s statement. First of all, genteel seems like the kind of congratulatory label you can’t stick to yourself—it’s all about how you treat others, so others should have to judge whether you’re actually genteel or not. Speaking of women like they’re untrained dogs who must be reprimanded when they displease their masters runs entirely counter to the pillars of gentility, which require gentlemen and gentlewomen to be hospitable and courteous to each other’s faces while whispering rumors behind their backs. A truly genteel Southerner would not tell a lady when she was being nasty—he’d make polite small talk with her, then later make jokes about her body hair from the safety of his men-only cigar lounge.

Babin’s choice of lady is rich, too. He’s using a word often deployed to shame women into the tight confines of old-fashioned femininity (a lady doesn’t shout, a lady doesn’t sit with her legs spread, etc.) while scolding Clinton for speaking unkind words about the wannabe dictator who’s running against her for president. It’s unclear whether gentlemen ever need to be told when their words become too harsh for Southern ears or whether they can regulate their own behavior more capably than ladies.

The best part of Babin’s statement is what he’s twisting himself in misogynist knots to defend. Trump called Clinton “such a nasty woman” when she said this about her tax plan: “My Social Security payroll contribution will go up, as will Donald’s, assuming he can’t figure out how to get out of it.” Considering that Trump has actually admitted that he’s gotten out of paying income taxes—he’s tried to spin it as a “businessmen will be businessmen” kind of move—Clinton’s quip may be the gentlest barb anyone could devise for the white nationalists’ candidate for president. She basically just repeated what he himself has said: Donald Trump will try to get out of as much of his tax burden as he can. You’d think a nasty woman could have come up with something much less genteel.

Oct. 21 2016 11:13 AM

Hillary Clinton’s Al Smith Dinner Address Was Ridiculously Funny and Beautifully Poignant

On Thursday night, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump dispatched with one of the stupidest traditions of America’s generally moronic campaign season: the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner roast. This event typically requires both candidates to roast each other with feeble, poorly formulated jokes and pay tribute to New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, a truly horrible man who quietly paid off sexually abusive priests to leave the priesthood andonce hid $57 million to shield the money from civil suits by the victims of priest abuse.

Both Trump and Clinton dutifully paid tribute to the hideously corrupt Dolan—but neither followed the usual lame joke playbook. Trump flat-out bombedwith a series of nasty, humorless barbs at Clinton, drawing boos from the crowd. Clinton, on the other hand, did something rather different and quite unexpected and completely effective: She delivered a legitimately hilarious series of sharp, trenchant jokes—many of them directed at the wealthy, fairly conservative audience—then closed out with a startlingly poignant and beautiful reflection on faith, civility, and humility.

Oct. 20 2016 5:38 PM

When Trump Blames Clinton For His Own Bad Behavior, He Sounds Like a Rape Apologist

At Wednesday night’s debate, Hillary Clinton brought up the hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes Donald Trump may have avoided by claiming a $1 billion loss in 1995. It’s hypocritical, Clinton suggested, for Trump to get out of paying any federal income tax while lambasting others for cheating the system and needling Wall Street fat cats for their greed.

Trump seemed to acknowledge that, for a wannabe president who’s made himself out to be the voice of America’s poor and struggling, not paying any taxes is a bad look. But even if he’s committed a shameful deed, he believes he had just cause: Clinton made him do it.

Oct. 20 2016 4:02 PM

Donald Trump’s Debate Comment Gives a Boost to Janet Jackson’s Anti-Harassment Jam “Nasty”

After Donald Trump called Hillary Clinton “such a nasty woman” in the closing moments of the third and blessedly final debate on Wednesday night, Spotify saw a 250-percent increase in streams of Janet Jackson’s 1986 jam “Nasty.” And there’s some ironic karmic justice in the fact that Trump—a man with a long record of misogynistic comments and alleged sexual assaults—reminded America of that particular track. After all, Jackson explained in a 1993 profile in Rolling Stone that the song was inspired by an encounter with two “emotionally abusive,” “sexually threatening” men.

In that interview with journalist David Ritz, Jackson described how she came to enter “a happy phase of sexuality” that “blossomed publicly” on her then-new album Janet. Becoming comfortable with her sexuality “wasn't easy,” Jackson said, and she was initially uneasy with the way her producing and songwriting team talked when she started working with them in the mid-1980s.

Oct. 20 2016 3:40 PM

Protesters Converge Against Sexual Assault in Metro Atlanta

On Thursday evening, protesters from across the Atlanta metro area will gather at a school board meeting in Gwinnett County, Georgia. Their goal: to convey outrage that the school system—which is among the highest-ranked in the nation—allegedly punished a student who reported a sexual assault, as Slate reported in September.

According to the student, Peachtree Ridge High School submitted her to a humiliating ordeal after she reported being sexually assaulted by a male peer in February 2015. A complaint that the student’s family has submitted to the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights alleges that administrators asked what she was wearing at the time of the incident and why she didn’t “bite [the assailant’s] penis and squeeze his balls.” School officials also asked the student to re-enact the assault in front of them, the complaint says. In interviews with Slate, the student’s parents described how the school put their daughter and the male student through a grueling joint disciplinary hearing, where they were asked to cross-examine each other through hired counsel. In the end, both students were suspended for engaging in sexual activity on campus in violation of the high school’s rules.


“My school punished me and made it seem like the attack was somehow my fault,” the student wrote in a statement to Slate. “For a long time, I thought maybe it was.” (You can read that statement in full here.)

Days after Slate’s report went live, the Gwinnett County District Attorney’s office announced that it would look into the 18-month-old case. DA Danny Porter said in late September that he would aim to decide next steps within 30 days. Porter told the Gwinnett Daily Post that he was struck by the involvement of a particular school resource officer—the one accused of asking the student what she was wearing and why she didn’t physically fight back. “The thing that caught our attention was the officer was a former county officer and we knew who he was and we knew he had never investigated a sex crime,” he said. Porter will meet with the victim’s family on Friday.

A group of recent Peachtree Ridge alumnae has signed up to address the school board meeting. “When I was at school there, they pushed the ‘standard of excellence,’ ” Sarah Welch, a 2014 graduate who now attends the University of Georgia and who will be speaking on Thursday, told me. “It was everywhere—every poster that came from the principal’s office.” She was floored by what she saw as hypocrisy in the school’s alleged handling of the case. Welch sent me a draft of the speech she plans to give to the school board, in which she urges:

Create a program that will teach your high school employees how to react to the knowledge of a recent sexual assault. Create a program that will prevent any future student from being asked what she was wearing. Create something that will let your teachers feel confident if a student comes forth and says, “I was sexually assaulted.” … The standard of excellence becomes a joke if this is how you treat the students you hold so highly. Hold yourselves to the same standard of excellence you pushed upon us and introduce sensitivity training to your high school staff.

The rally was organized by a student at Georgia State University, Kristen Oyler, who runs a club dedicated to addressing sexual assault on her college campus. Oyler has no personal connection to Gwinnett County, but she felt compelled to send a message to the school board and to “make sure the student feels supported,” she told me. She reached out to the student’s attorney to see if the family would welcome a public protest and got an enthusiastic response. Though the student has chosen to stay anonymous for now, her attorney, Adele Kimmel of the public interest law firm Public Justice, will read a statement of thanks that she wrote to the rally's attendees. “For a long time, I thought nothing positive would come out of what happened to me,” she wrote in the statement, a copy of which has been provided to Slate. “Today, knowing that all of you are here to speak out for change, it makes me feel good about telling my story. Words cannot describe how thankful I am to finally be heard.”