The XX Factor
What Women Really Think

Feb. 22 2017 4:29 PM

Trump’s Federal Hiring Freeze Is Worsening the Military’s Child Care Crisis

Just days after his inauguration in January, Trump signed a memorandum that froze most government hiring effective immediately. Now at least two Army bases have suspended some of their child-care programs in response.

In Fort Knox, Kentucky, officials notified families last week that effective immediately, no new children would be enrolled in the base’s Child Development Center. The center is also cutting off hourly and part-time care, including pre-school programs, until further notice. That leaves child care available only to those who are enrolled full-time already. The notice attributed the changes directly to Trump’s hiring freeze, noting that staff turnover and illnesses have created vacancies that the base is now prevented from filling.

Feb. 22 2017 3:12 PM

Make IVF Cheaper by Growing Embryos in Your Own Vagina Instead of an Incubator

A new fertility device is putting a DIY spin on in vitro fertilization, letting clinics offer the wildly expensive procedure at about half the traditional cost. Effortless IVF, a budget-friendly clinic in Calgary, Canada that opened earlier this month, still employs doctors, harvests eggs from people trying to get pregnant, and transfers embryos into their uteruses. But instead of letting the sperm and eggs do their thing in a petri dish nestled inside an incubator, Effortless IVF puts them in the idyllic environment of a human vagina.

Feb. 21 2017 3:32 PM

The Mall of America’s Writer-in-Residence Contest Is Capitalism’s Answer to the WPA

A moody short story of tchotchkes and psychosexual obsession set at a Spencer’s gift store. A poem that captures the desultory mood of a Cinnabon at midafternoon. A novella concerned with the lives and loves of the staff and regulars at one Rainforest Café over the course of a year. A true-crime narrative about a visit to a Piercing Pagoda gone very wrong. These are just a few literary possibilities that sprang to mind in conjunction with the announcement of the Mall of America’s writer-in-residence program.

Feb. 21 2017 2:03 PM

The Sexism Described in Uber Employee’s Report Is Why Women Leave Tech—Or Don’t Enter at All

Uber is staging a major PR defense for the second time in recent weeks after a former employee published a detailed account of persistent sexual harassment and discrimination she allegedly faced while working as an engineer at the company. Susan Fowler, who left the company in December after about a year of employment, claims in her Feb. 19 blog post that her manager sent her sexual chat messages soon after she was hired. When she reported him to human resources, she writes, she was told that it was his “first offense” and that she should switch teams if she didn’t want a negative performance review from him. Fowler later found out that other women had reported witnessing inappropriate behavior from this same man, and each were told that it was his “first offense” and not a big enough deal to require action.

Fowler’s story, which gets even more convoluted, is an alarming reminder that there are many overlapping reasons why tech companies often have a meager population of women on staff. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick revealed in a memo to employees on Monday that the company employs just 15 percent women in its technical roles. (For comparison, Google reports that 19 percent of its tech workforce is female, Airbnb reports 26 percent, and Twitter is even with Uber at 15 percent.) The gender gap in tech starts with teachers and toymakers discouraging girls from pursuing STEM interests. It’s cemented by structural biases that find female MIT graduates earning far less than their male peers in a larger wage gap than alumni of any other elite university. And it’s justified by the president of the United States’ closest advisor, who advanced the misogynist fairytale of women having an innate intellectual deficiency in math.

Feb. 17 2017 5:07 PM

Feminism Is the Latest High-Fashion Trend

Shirts proclaiming feminist slogans are standard issue for many college students; but who would have predicted that they would become a key trend on the runways? Woke couture sent out its first shoots last spring, when Dior designer Maria Grazia Chiuri paired a flowing tulle skirt with a T-shirt that declared, "We Should All Be Feminists." The shirt, retailing for $700, was an immediate social media success and has since been worn by Natalie Portman and Rihanna. Political T’s positively proliferated at this year’s New York Fashion Week: Jonathan Simkhai gifted front-row attendees to his show with “Feminist AF” shirts, and Prabal Gurung, citing January’s women’s marches as inspiration, debuted T-shirts decorated with messages including “The Future Is Female” and “Nevertheless She Persisted.”

It isn’t immediately clear how these shirts are different from others you could find on Etsy, eBay, or even Amazon, other than the 3,000-percent price difference. The novelty seems to be rooted in the notion that Dior is making a feminist statement. Suddenly, the fashion crowd has embraced political clothing. Some observers have suggested this might even make feminism more palatable to a new crowd. Britain’s Daily Telegraph said Chiuri was “reaching women who might not normally be receptive to any kind of socially progressive message.”

Feb. 17 2017 1:09 PM

The House Voted to Make It Easier for States to Defund Planned Parenthood

The House of Representatives voted on Thursday to repeal a rule Barack Obama signed in December as a hail-Mary effort to protect Planned Parenthood from GOP defunding efforts. The rule reiterates that state governments may not block federal family-planning funding from specific health care providers for any reason other than their ability to competently provide family-planning services. In other words, state legislators cannot deny Title X grants to certain clinics just because they offer abortion care.

Feb. 16 2017 2:37 PM

Female Alumni of Top Colleges Still Make Less Money Than Men From Non-Selective Schools

Male alumni of elite universities can expect a substantial salary advantage over peers from less selective institutions. But the gender wage gap is wide enough to put women who graduated from even the country’s best colleges behind men who graduated from the least selective ones.

Feb. 16 2017 12:42 PM

Job-Creator Trump Is Destroying Jobs at Refugee Resettlement Agencies

One of Donald Trump’s most consistent promises to the American people is that he will create jobs. This week, one of his policies destroyed them.

On Wednesday, the large international relief and development organization World Relief announced that it will lay off more than 140 staff members in the United States. It will close offices in Columbus, Ohio; Miami; Nashville, Tennessee; Boise, Idaho; and Glen Burnie, Maryland. According to World Relief, those five offices have collectively resettled more than 25,000 refugees in the last 40 years.

Both the headline and first sentence of the organization’s announcement of the layoffs laid the blame squarely on the president’s shoulders. “As a direct result of the recent decision by the Trump Administration to dramatically reduce the number of refugees resettled in the U.S. throughout fiscal year 2017, World Relief has been forced to make the difficult decision to layoff 140+ staff members,” the press release began.

Feb. 15 2017 5:17 PM

Don’t Believe Playboy’s Latest Attempt to Pretend Its Nudity Is Progressive and Cool

Playboy’s attempt to quit nude photo spreads didn’t last long. The magazine published the first non-nude issue in its 63-year history in March 2016, and just one year later, it’s reversing course. Cooper Hefner, founder Hugh Hefner’s son and the company’s new chief creative officer, tweeted on Monday that nudity will return to Playboy in its March/April 2017 issue.

Feb. 15 2017 1:33 PM

Obamacare Saved Marriages From “Medical Divorce”

Divorce is rarely a sunny event, but so-called “medical divorce” is a particularly heartbreaking phenomenon. When one member of a couple under age 65 is diagnosed with a debilitating long-term illness, it can be financially responsible—even necessary—for them to divorce in order to push the sick partner’s assets below the threshold to qualify for Medicaid. Otherwise, the family’s retirement accounts and other savings could be consumed by health care bills, even if their income was relatively low. “A thousand little things have been ripped away from us,” said one Tennessee man who had separated from his epileptic wife in 2014 so she could qualify for the state Medicaid program. What a neat health care system we have here in America!

A paper published this week suggests that the Affordable Care Act has kept many of these imperiled marriages intact. The “asset tests” that incentivized divorce were removed under the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid. As long as the sick partner had an income below 138 percent of the poverty line, they could tap into Medicaid, and the healthy spouse could hold onto his retirement accounts. In the new paper, researchers compared the divorce rates between 2000 and 2015 in states that opted in to Medicaid expansion and those that didn’t. As it turned out, a state’s decision to expand Medicaid led to a 5.6 percent decline in the divorce rate among people age 50 to 64—the cohort most likely to fall prey to medical divorce. The paper, by two economists at the University of Kansas, was published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.