The XX Factor
What Women Really Think

March 23 2017 10:41 AM

Donald and Melania Trump Reportedly Sleep in Separate Bedrooms. How Should We Feel?

There are a few appropriate responses to the news, broken by US Weekly on Wednesday, that Donald and Melania Trump allegedly sleep in separate bedrooms. One is anger: How dare this magazine make me think about the president of the United States in the snoring, bedheaded, pajamaed state of slumber or in any proximity to conjugal activity?

March 22 2017 5:46 PM

Codes of Conduct Around Inclusion and Harassment Are a Sadly Necessary Trend

Within the last few years, “codes of conduct” have become such standard practice in tech settings that a conference or community without one is considered suspicious. Many open-source projects abide by a “contributor covenant” that forbids behavior like harassment and unwelcome sexual attention, for example. At Microsoft’s upcoming Build 2017 conference, the code states in part, “We do not tolerate harassing or disruptive behavior, messages, images, or interactions.” For Facebook’s annual developer conference next month, organizers have issued detailed community guidelines that includes a list of specific “conduct that is not OK,” including:

 

  • Derogatory or insensitive jokes, pranks, or comments
  • Slurs or epithets
  • Harassing photography or recording
  • Displaying or sharing images that are derogatory or sexually-oriented
  • Making offensive comments about people’s bodies or appearance

Recently, the March for Science became the latest STEM-related entity to clarify in writing that it does not tolerate harassment or bigotry. What many of these communities have in common is that are supposedly neutral, meritocratic spaces that in reality can be incredibly hostile to anyone not part of the majority culture. The protest, which takes place Apr. 22 in Washington, is intended to rally scientists and “science enthusiasts” to “support and safeguard the scientific community” in the context of the Trump administration’s confusing and alarming approach to science policy. But issues related to diversity and harassment have been a problem for the event from the start. Stat News reported Tuesday that “plans for the march are plagued by infighting among organizers, attacks from outside scientists who don’t feel their interests are fairly represented, and operational disputes.”

March 22 2017 2:09 PM

The AHCA Would Force New Moms on Medicaid to Find Work 60 Days After Labor

 

On Monday night, Paul Ryan attempted to lure more of his far-right Republican compadres on board with the GOP’s proposed health care plan with a set of changes to the bill. The so-called “manager’s amendment” makes the American Health Care Act a significantly more conservative proposal that would mean severe cuts to coverage for the poorest Americans.

 

 

The AHCA, which would repeal the Affordable Care Act, already represented a sweeping rollback of women’s health care coverage—it effectively dismantles all insurance coverage for abortion; eliminates requirements of essential services to be covered under Medicaid; and defunds Planned Parenthood, a move 75 percent of Americans oppose. Monday’s amendment goes even further to restrict women’s access to lifesaving care, particularly if they’re unemployed. Health Affairs has a good, detailed description of how the amendment slashes coverage standards for people on Medicaid in general and children in particular, who make up a disproportionate chunk of Medicaid enrollees.

 

March 22 2017 7:37 AM

A Night Among the Witches Fighting the Trump Administration

Donald Trump’s approval ratings recently hit a record low. Among young people, college graduates, nonwhite people, and women, the disapproval ratings are especially high. Here’s one more constituency to add to that list: witches.

The Trump administration has awakened all sorts of people’s political consciousnesses. It’s only natural that witches would be among them, and more and more, they’re gaining attention for their actions. Witches were in the news a few weeks ago when a Facebook post calling for a mass Trump binding ritual went viral. And on Sunday night, a new group called Witches Against Fascist Totalitarianism threw its first event in New York.

March 21 2017 5:50 PM

The U.S. Infant Mortality Rate Is Falling, But Still Worse Than Peer Nations

The U.S.’s relatively high infant mortality rate is one of the darkest stains on the nation’s public-health record. Compared to babies in other wealthy nations, infants in the U.S. are far less likely to make it to their first birthdays—in 2010, a U.S. baby was more than twice as likely to die in its first year than a baby in Norway, the Czech Republic, Portugal, and Japan.

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.

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“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.”

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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.

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