The XX Factor
What Women Really Think

Dec. 9 2016 5:26 PM

No, Trump’s Inauguration Isn’t Banning the Women’s March From the Lincoln Memorial

There’s been a lot of handwringing this week about the Women’s March on Washington, a rally set for the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration. The event, which attracted tens of thousands of Facebook responses before it even had an organizing team, was originally supposed to take place at the Lincoln Memorial. As I reported last month, the organizers of the march have known for a while that it won’t actually happen there. Several other organizations applied for National Park Service permits for that location at that time before the Women’s March on Washington did, making it next to impossible that they’d get the spot.

Now, spurred by comments from a lawyer for another group that wants to protest the inauguration, media outlets are accusing the forthcoming Trump administration of purposely keeping women from holding their event as planned. “Women's March on Washington barred from Lincoln Memorial,” the Guardian reported. Salon is convinced that “Trump’s Presidential Inauguration Committee has blocked access to the landmark Lincoln Memorial in D.C.”

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This is a completely misleading way to frame the story. First of all, it’s not “Trump’s Presidential Inauguration Committee”—the inaugural committee is not directed by the incoming administration, and for what it’s worth, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer are members. Here is what’s actually happening: Some months ago, as it does up to a year before any presidential inauguration, the NPS filed a blanket permit request on behalf of the inaugural committee, effectively reserving the National Mall, the area around the White House, and their environs (including the Lincoln Memorial) for whatever inauguration festivities the committee might want to plan. That permit request covers several days before and after inauguration, to account for after-events and the set-up and take-down of bleachers, barriers, stages, and security.

The NPS does not issue any permits to other groups that request use of these grounds during the inauguration window until the inaugural committee, which also plans the inauguration parade, decides what it’ll need and when. The Washington Post reports that it is not at all out of the ordinary for the inaugural committee to still have its plans up in the air this far in advance of the event. In other words, there’s no sign that the committee might be enacting a plan to hog all public land, whether it needs it or not, until after inauguration. “This is always the way it happens," a NPS spokesman told the Post.

What is out of the ordinary is the fact that so many groups have applied for NPS permits for inauguration weekend, when D.C. security and traffic are both notoriously difficult to navigate. Usually, just a few organizations want to organize protests at inauguration. This year, about 20 different groups want to hold their events on federal grounds.

That’s the main reason why claims that the Women’s March on Washington is being “barred” from the Lincoln Memorial are untrue. As the NPS spokesman told me last month, even if the inaugural committee didn’t have a lock on the space, four other organizations had already applied for permits at that location by the time the Women’s March on Washington got its application in. The NPS issues permits on a first-come, first-served basis, so all four of those organizations would come first. And since it’s public land, any ralliers can come protest at that location even if they don’t have a permit; they just probably won’t be able to set up a stage and sound equipment like they’d hoped. More likely, the NPS will help them find a different location nearby. That’s a shame for people who wanted the historic steps of the Lincoln Memorial, but it’s not the inaugural committee’s fault.

Dec. 9 2016 4:19 PM

Uber Now Bans Flirting in Its Vehicles. Will That Stop Creepy Drivers?

Uber now forbids its drivers from flirting with passengers, a move that could make the ridesharing service less of a hardship for women who use it.

New guidelines released on Thursday tell riders and drivers alike, “please don’t comment on someone’s appearance or ask whether they are single. … And don’t touch or flirt with other people in the car.”

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Just about every woman I know has a horror story about an Uber driver who stared too long, asked questions about her love life, or wanted to “keep in touch” after the ride was over. After one Boston.com reporter told Uber that a driver had offered her oral sex and locked the doors to keep her from getting out at her destination, the company offered her ride credits as an apology but refused to tell her whether the man was still allowed to ferry other passengers around.

In October, professors from MIT, Stanford, and the University of Washington published a study that reported widespread racial discrimination among drivers; Boston drivers canceled rides for male passengers with “black-sounding names” more than two times as often as they did for other men. The study also found that, with female passengers, drivers would be extra “chatty” and take them on circuitous, elongated routes to make more money and take advantage of a woman as a “captive audience.”

Now, according to the new Uber terms, drivers and riders could get banned from the service for “asking overly personal questions, using verbal threats, and making comments or gestures that are aggressive, sexual, discriminatory, or disrespectful.” Riders could even get banned for texting or visiting a fellow Uber Pool passenger after their ride was over. Uber bans all sexual contact between drivers and passengers, “no matter what.”

The new anti-flirting guideline is one good way to try to prevent harassment and uncomfortable, unsafe passenger experiences. But its efficacy depends on drivers’ self-awareness—an asset I’m not confident most flirtatious offenders possess. I suspect it’s far more likely that men who make women feel queasy with unwelcome questions and comments either don’t see their behavior as objectionable or don’t care.

What's more, the definition of flirt is too broad to enforce a total ban. If a driver talks nonstop at a female rider but lets a male rider sit in peace, is he flirting? If he, like one of my drivers, provides an unbidden recap of the sexual assault allegations against Donald Trump and insists that women who allege rape just want money or attention, are his comments “sexual, discriminatory, or disrespectful”? Here’s a better idea: Ban all talking that doesn’t have to do with driving directions or climate control. Flirters will find themselves unable to creep, and women who want a moment alone with their thoughts won’t have to politely offer one-word answers until he gets the hint.

Dec. 9 2016 3:42 PM

Ohio Legislature Passes Another Anti-Abortion Bill—and a Few Other Horrible Things

Earlier this week, the Ohio legislature passed an extreme “fetal heartbeat” bill criminalizing abortion after six weeks with no exceptions for rape, incest, or the health of the mother. On Friday, as its session drew to a close, the Republican-dominated legislature passed another anti-abortion measure, this time outlawing abortion after 20 weeks, with exceptions for the health of the mother but not for rape or incest.

This one-two punch suggests that the earlier fetal heartbeat bill wasn’t a ridiculously unconstitutional scream into the void, but rather a clever tactical maneuver. Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich, who opposes abortion, has previously suggested that he might not sign an outright ban in light of the inevitable constitutional challenges. (When a state unsuccessfully defends an anti-abortion law, it often has to pay out huge sums in lawyers’ fees to pro-choice groups that attacked the statute.) Kasich hasn’t yet indicated his views on the fetal heartbeat bill, and it seemed to put him in a tough spot: Sign it, and he’ll lose in court; veto it, and he’ll irritate his anti-abortion supporters.

Dec. 9 2016 1:16 PM

Trump’s Labor Secretary Pick Is a Gross Misogynist, Really Into Hot Women in Bikinis

It looks like Donald Trump has selected a miniature version of himself as his secretary of labor, at least as far as women in bikinis are concerned. Andrew Puzder, the fast food CEO who heads the parent company of Carl’s Jr. and Hardees, has said the infamous Carl’s Jr. commercials that show greased-up women in bikinis touching one another are a reflection of his “personality.”

The company has courted scandal with its hamburger advertisements since at least 2005, when it released a spot featuring Paris Hilton humping a luxury vehicle with soapsuds running down her exposed skin. In another memorable ad, three blond white women wearing less than bathing suits finger jars of bacon jam and dangle strips of meat into one another’s mouths. “It’s called a bacon three-way burger,” one says. “What did you expect?”

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Fortune reports that, in a 2011 press release, Puzder defended his company’s sexist, uber-objectifying ads with the idea that his target market is “young, hungry guys.” “We believe in putting hot models in our commercials, because ugly ones don’t sell burgers,” he said. “We target hungry guys, and we get young kids that want to be young hungry guys.”

In an interview with Entrepreneur last year, Trump's pick to be secretary of labor used the same phrase—“young hungry guy”—so often, and in such weird ways, it starts to seem like code for “man who grabs women’s body parts” or “horny, desperate asshole.” “My son's now 17, but when he was 13 he didn't want to eat at ‘the king’ [or] ‘the clown,’ ” Puzder said, throwing shade at Burger King and McDonald’s. “He wanted to eat where his brother ate, so he wanted to be a young hungry guy.”

“I'm 64, I want to be a young hungry guy,” he told the female reporter. “Some young ladies in your age group like to date young hungry guys.” Puzder sounds like he shares a nasty old man playbook with Donald “in a couple of years, I’ll be dating you” Trump. Puzder also takes credit for discovering Kate Upton, the supermodel who was largely unknown when Carl’s Jr. cast her in a commercial because, the CEO said, “she was a really hot blonde.”

Trump is known for his belief that a woman’s value lies in his estimation of her fuckability. In a 1991 interview with Esquire, the president-elect said of the media, “It really doesn’t matter what they write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass. But she’s got to be young and beautiful.” Likewise, Puzder doesn’t care what people say about his ads or what message they may send to men about women—or to women about themselves—as long as he’s still making money. “I like our ads. I like beautiful women eating burgers in bikinis. I think it’s very American,” he told Entrepreneur. One survey found that 52 percent of the people who watched a particularly gross Carl’s Jr. commercial found it offensive, and 32 percent “felt worse about Carl’s Jr.,” compared with 8 percent who feel worse after watching the average fast-food ad. This widespread negative attention, and the boycotts and protests from groups that care about portrayals of women in media, was good for business, Puzder said: “Those complaints aren't necessarily bad for us. What you look at is, you look at sales. And, our sales go up.”

Building a brand out of a worldview that limits women’s utility to their sex appeal is a method Trump trusts—no small part of the electorate that lifted him to victory was motivated by the visceral appeal of his sex talk and his misogynist attacks on Hillary Clinton, Alicia Machado, Megyn Kelly, and other women who got in Trump’s way. It’s easy to imagine Trump choosing Puzder for his Cabinet solely on the basis of last year’s Carl’s Jr. Tex-Mex burger commercial, which showed female volleyball players slapping each other’s butt cheeks, flesh wobbling in slow motion, as men salivate on the sidelines. It’s the U.S. versus Mexico in this match-up; there’s even a fence between the two sides! The women battle it out and squirt water down their fronts while men from the two countries build intercultural bonds over how great it is to watch women be hot.

“I used to hear brands take on the personality of the CEO, and I rarely thought that was true,” Puzder told Entrepreneur in 2015. “But I think this one, in this case, it kind of did take on my personality.” If his personality turned a second-rate fast food chain into a masturbatory supply outlet that encourages dopey men to think of breasts and burgers in the same category, imagine what it’ll do for America’s workforce.

Dec. 9 2016 1:05 PM

The Craziest Lies in Texas’ Nutty Anti-Abortion Booklet

Women who wish to obtain an abortion in Texas begin the onerous three-day process by receiving a booklet called “A Woman’s Right to Know.” The state compels women to read this strange little pamphlet before moving forward with the procedure in an effort to dissuade them from terminating their pregnancies. Recently, the Texas Department of State Health Services—the same agency that wrote the rules forcing women to bury or cremate their aborted or miscarried fetuses—issued a revised version of the booklet. As usual, it is filled with propaganda and misinformation designed to terrify women out of getting an abortion, including repeated references to embryos and fetuses as “your baby.” But three especially risible lies stand out.

1. Getting an abortion increases your risk of breast cancer.

The booklet declares that “doctors and scientists are actively studying the complex biology of breast cancer,” and it strongly implies that research already indicates that obtaining an abortion increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer. Although anti-abortion activists vigorously promulgate this canard, it is simply not true. Extensive studies and analyses have thoroughly refuted this myth—yet embarrassingly, Texas continues to peddle it in an official health brochure.

Dec. 8 2016 2:06 PM

Paula Broadwell Says the Military Will Let David Petraeus Move On, but Not Her

Watching David Petraeus come under consideration for Secretary of State has made Paula Broadwell question the double standards that leave her in military limbo while he continues to rise in his field.

On Thursday, CBS This Morning aired the Army Reserve major’s first national TV interview since she was busted for having an extramarital affair with then–CIA director Petraeus in 2012. “I’ve been strongly advised to not talk to the press, and I understand that—sometimes it’s better to remain silent,” she told host Norah O’Donnell. “I’ve had that philosophy for the last five years. But I’ve reached a point where I feel like, you know what? I need to fight back for my life. … It’s time to move on.”

Dec. 8 2016 12:01 PM

Sofia Vergara’s Frozen Embryos, “Emma” and “Isabella,” Are Suing Her

Actress Sofia Vergara is said to have broken up with her fiancé after she took him to the White House and he tried to get President Obama to pose for a photo with a container of the hot-dog topping he invented. One would think, especially if one were one of the most beautiful and well-paid actresses in the world, that things could not get worse, relationship-wise.

That was before the now-ex-fiancé, Nick Loeb, launched a years-long legal crusade over two frozen embryos. That crusade reached an absurd new low this week, when to the embryos themselves sued Vergara in the state of Louisiana. As Page Six first reported, the suit lists them as plaintiffs “Emma” and “Isabella,” and claims that because they have not been born, they are being deprived of money being held for them in a trust in the state.

Dec. 8 2016 8:15 AM

Is Roe v. Wade Really Doomed by Donald Trump?

On Tuesday night, the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature passed a “fetal heartbeat” bill effectively banning abortion after six weeks. As my colleague Ruth Graham has explained, the bill’s sponsors recognize that the measure is unconstitutional under current precedent. But State Senate President Keith Faber is bullish about its chances of passing judicial scrutiny—thanks to the election of Donald Trump. “I think it has a better chance than it did before,” Faber told reporters, explaining that he hopes Trump will appoint enough anti-abortion justices to uphold the legislation should it reach the Supreme Court.

Is Faber correct? The Washington Post’s Paul Waldman thinks he might be. “Roe v. Wade may be doomed,” Waldman declared in a piece on Wednesday. He lays out a chilling scenario: One of the five justices committed to Roe retires; Trump appoints an anti-Roe to replace him or her; a Republican-dominated Congress passes stringent anti-abortion legislation, as do red states; the court rubber-stamps these laws; and Roe’s protections finally fall away altogether.

Dec. 7 2016 7:07 PM

Time Magazine Really Just Said the Election “Didn’t Hinge on Gender After All”

On Wednesday, Time magazine named the Radioactive Space Monster—excuse me, Donald J. Trump—its Person of the Year. This is not really an outrage: The magazine’s editors aim to select an individual who “embodied what was important about the year, for better or for worse.” In past years, this person has been Adolf Hitler (in 1938) and Joseph Stalin (in 1939 and 1942). Trump isn’t exactly being honored by Time (although you can bet he’ll try to spin it that way), and you can’t argue that Trump doesn’t personify everything that is terrible and frightening about 2016.

Here’s what is an outrage, or at least a profound mystery. In Time’s assessment of Hillary Clinton—one of five runner-ups for the title—political journalist Charlotte Alter writes, “A female candidate in an election that didn’t hinge on gender after all, she became a symbol in a fight that was about much more than symbolism.” Didn’t hinge on gender after all? “[T]he race between the first plausible female presidential candidate and a man who bragged about grabbing women ‘by the pussy’ did not boil down to gender,” Alter says a few sentences later. Did not boil down to gender? Later, Alter reiterates that “the 2016 election wasn’t ultimately about gender.” Wasn’t ultimately about gender? I want to live in the universe Alter lives in.

Dec. 7 2016 5:13 PM

Kellyanne Conway Suggests Men Don’t Want Their Wives to Work in the White House

Update, Dec. 8, 6:20 p.m.: At the time we originally published this post, we made an interpretation of Politico’s report that may be too harsh in the light of new information. (The post’s original headline was “Kellyanne Conway Suggests That Women With Kids Shouldn’t Take Jobs in the White House.”) An ABC News reportprovided more context, including that Conway said mothers are “welcome in the Trump White House,” and that she said she intends to continue to work with Donald Trump as the head of an independent organization. As reluctant as she may be to work in a formal White House role, Conway does not seem to think that no mother should. ABC also framed her remarks below, about asking men if they want their wives to take White House jobs, as “ask[ing] the male candidates to see their role through the eyes of their spouse,” which is an interpretation we hadn’t considered.

Original Post, Dec. 7, 5:13 p.m.: Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said that mothers should not accept high-powered career opportunities—a standard that does not apply to fathers, in Conway’s opinion.

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