The XX Factor
What Women Really Think

July 27 2016 5:05 PM

Bill Clinton’s Front Page Photos Say More About News Constraints Than Sexism

On Tuesday night, Hillary Clinton made history when the Democratic delegates in Philadelphia nominated her as the party’s candidate for president. You wouldn’t have guessed that by looking at the front page photos of some of the country’s local and national newspapers:

July 27 2016 3:32 PM

In Praise of Chelsea Clinton’s Teenage Style

America didn’t do right by Chelsea Clinton in the 1990s.

Bill Clinton became President of the United States at a time in Chelsea’s life when every adolescent experiments with her identity and the way in which she carries herself. Thrust onto the world’s most public stage at the age of 12, Chelsea followed in her mother’s trailblazing footsteps, choosing not to hide her personal style. She embraced her frizzy blonde curls, bold florals, and oversized pantsuits—a move that triggered overzealous sexism and criticism in the form of off-color jokes and analysis from conservative foes, liberal columnists and television comedians alike.

July 27 2016 1:11 PM

In 1995, Walmart Pulled a “Someday a Woman Will Be President” Shirt From Shelves

More than two decades before Hillary Clinton became the first woman nominated by a major political party for president, a T-shirt at Wal-Mart made a prophesy.

“Someday,” it read, “a woman will be president.”

Designed by Ann Moliver Ruben, a then-70-year-old psychologist, the shirt featured the character Margaret from Dennis the Menace and appeared in a Wal-Mart franchise in the Miami suburb of Miramar. A few weeks later, according to a 1995 Miami Herald article, Ruben visited the store to see how her shirts were selling. She found them taken off the racks, hidden in the back room, and asked the branch’s clothes buyer, Sharon Higginbotham, what happened.

July 27 2016 12:03 PM

A Celebrity Gossip Expert Explains the Summer of Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift is having quite the summer—from her breakup with Calvin Harris to the birth of Hiddleswiftto Kim Kardashian’s receipts-apalooza, plus or minus a Nils Sjoberg, she’s been consistently dominating headlines. But what does it all mean? is where many of the smart women I follow online turn for informed interpretation of the latest celebrity scandal. Lainey often writes about the story behind the story, zeroing in on celebrity hypocrisy and the symbiotic relationship between celebs and media. When Jennifer Aniston wrote an op-ed for the Huffington Post recently to rail against “tabloid culture,” for example, LaineyGossip pointed out that Aniston “does not acknowledge the celebrity’s role in the ecosystem—HER role in the ecosystem. ... That’s the goal of most celebrities: to turn the ecosystem into a dictatorship.” About Kardashian’s Snapchats of a taped phone call between her husband Kanye West and Swift, Lainey had this to say: “[I]n this kind of fight, where are Mrs West’s weaknesses? What could possibly be said about Mrs West that hasn’t been said already? Mrs West already has a sex tape. ... Which is why, when she’s serving up the smut, she’s actually bulletproof.”

July 26 2016 11:11 PM

How the DNC Is Subtly Rebuking Donald Trump’s Mockery of a Disabled Reporter

Last fall, in a campaign stop in South Carolina, Donald Trump imitated a New York Times reporter who has a congenital condition that limits the movement in his joints. “You’ve got to see this guy, ‘Ah, I don’t know what I said! I don’t remember!’ ” Trump jeered, jerking his hands around and distorting his voice. The Republican nominee for president is so awful toward so many individuals and groups of people that it can be easy to lose track of even his most grotesque insults. But this incident seems to have unusual staying power in the public imagination, becoming the basis of a recent ad produced by the progressive super PAC Priorities USA and of a video package shown at the Democratic National Convention.

It is worth contrasting Trump’s casual cruelty with the tone the DNC has set on disability issues so far. On Monday, disability rights advocate Anastasia Somoza delivered a powerful speech in which she said she felt sorry for Trump. “I honestly feel bad for anyone with that much hate in their heart,” she said. “Donald Trump doesn’t see me, he doesn’t hear me, and he definitely doesn’t speak for me.” Somoza, who has cerebral palsy and spastic quadriplegia, delivered her talk from a wheelchair to the roars of an approving crowd.


In his keynote speech on Tuesday, Bill Clinton acknowledged Somoza in the audience as he talked about his wife’s early work on equal educational access for children with disabilities. Hillary “never made fun of people with disabilities,” he said, alluding not-so-subtly to her opponent. “She tried to empower them based on their abilities.”

On Tuesday, the 26th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, several other disabled people took the stage in Philadelphia to share their stories. Lawyer and activist Dynah Haubert, who uses a wheelchair due to a condition called Friedreich’s ataxia—which causes progressive damage to the nervous system—spoke briefly along with others involved in issues including adoption and education. “I became a lawyer to advocate that disability is not a problem to be cured but a part of our identity and diversity,” she said. Later, Ryan Moore, who has a rare form of dwarfism, spoke about his long friendship with Hillary, which started when he was 7 years old and she picked him up and held him throughout a speech on health care reform. (Referring to dwarfism as a disability is disputed within the dwarf community, but the condition is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act.)

Among the convention’s many grand themes so far—criminal justice, the economy, the folksy charisma of Bill Clinton—these occasional grace notes will hardly stand out. In any other year but this one, they would hardly be worth remarking on. But this is not just any year.

Early in the evening on Tuesday, former Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin took the stage for a presentation on the ADA, which he co-authored and championed in Congress back in 1990. Harkin learned sign language from his older brother, Frank, who was deaf, and he took the chance on Tuesday to teach the assembled delegates one particular word. He led the crowd in taking their fingers and knitting them together, and then moving them in a circle. “That, my friends, is the sign for America,” he said. “It’s a beautiful sign. Think about it, we’re all together—we’re all together, no one is left out.” No one, that is, but Donald Trump.

July 26 2016 5:20 PM

Samantha Bee’s Full Frontal to TBS on Sexist Tweet: “Delete Your Account”

For a few blessed moments on Monday night, the stars of Samantha Bee and Michelle Obama fell into alignment. Less than two hours before Obama applauded Hillary Clinton for sticking it out in public service while haters mocked her looks and laugh, Bee took her own television network to task for comparing the Democratic presidential nominee to a yelping hyena.

July 26 2016 4:56 PM

Meet the Allens, the “Off-Grid” Family That Wants Your Support to Survive

The first thing the Allens, a British family of four, want you to know about them is that they are followers of something they call off-grid parenting. This includes common, and sometimes questionable, alternative parenting practices like homeschooling, avoiding vaccinations and modern medicine, co-sleeping, and extended breastfeeding. There are also less common ones like “lotus birthing” (letting the placenta and umbilical cord fall off naturally) and avoiding shoes for their children. Still, all this is not enough for the Allens. They yearn for a family life even further off-grid, and have hatched a plan that will help them move closer “towards self sustainability and being a bit more free range and less institutionalized.”

July 26 2016 3:55 PM

Channeling Trump, Italian Politician Compares Colleague to a Sex Doll

Proving that America has no monopoly on gross misogyny—as the GOP nominee for president Donald Trump might make some believe—on Monday the leader of Italy’s anti-immigrant Northern League party, Matteo Salvini, compared Laura Boldrini, the speaker of the lower house of the Italian parliament, to a sex doll. In his speech at a rally near Cremona, Italy, his supporters held a blow-up doll behind him. Referring to it, Salvini said “Boldrini's clone is here on the stage.” He offered no explanation as to why he made that particular comparison.

Salvini has long been opposed to Boldrini’s political views. Before being elected to parliament, she served as Italy’s spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. Since her election, she has been appealing for the humane treatment of immigrants in Italy—a view that the anti-immigrant Salvini clearly opposes. When asked by Sky Italia television if he would apologize for his sex-doll comparison, Salvini went so far as to say, "You must be joking, it's Boldrini who should apologize because she is a racist towards Italians."


The doll joke received much laughter from his supporters in the crowd, but as soon as it appeared on social media, Salvini began receiving criticism. Emanuele Fiano, a deputy for Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party said that “Salvini misses no opportunity for insults and vulgarity, but with this rally he has passed every limit of decency.”

Sound familiar? Turns out Salvini found something of a role model in Trump when the two met in November of last year.

(Translation: Renzi chooses the spectacular disaster of Obama & Merkel, I prefer the law and order proposed by #Trump2016!)

The bromance makes a lot of sense. Though Trump hasn’t gone so far as to compare Hillary Clinton to a sex doll (yet), he has participated in his fair share of gendered criticism. He’s accused Clinton of playing the “woman’s card” on multiple occasions, saying that “If Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5 percent of the vote.” And Trump has even said that "The only thing she's got going is the fact that she's a woman."

This, of course, is a ridiculous statement. But it’s totally on par with a sexist worldview—one shared by Trump, Salvini, and many individuals—that treats women as empty, disposable shells. Salvini might wish that Boldrini was more like a mute sex doll, but in reality, she is an accomplished politician who allows her ideas to speak for her—and such a basic comparison isn’t going to stop her anytime soon.

July 26 2016 3:03 PM

The CDC Says Doctors Should Screen More Pregnant Women for Zika

Doctors in the U.S. should proactively screen at-risk pregnant women for the Zika virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “All pregnant women in the United States and U.S. territories should be assessed for possible Zika virus exposure at each prenatal care visit,” reads a new memo the CDC released on Monday.

That’s the most aggressive recommendation yet to come from the CDC in the past several months of mounting preparation for Zika’s landfall in the continental U.S. It doesn’t mean that doctors must test all pregnant patients for Zika, but that they should discuss risk factors—travel to a Zika-afflicted area, a symptomatic partner—to determine the need for further testing.


The new guidelines also broaden the population of patients for whom testing is recommended. It used to be that a pregnant patient or her sexual partner had to travel to an area in the current Zika danger zones and develop symptoms before the CDC would unequivocally recommend testing. Now, in part because about 80 percent of Zika-infected people don't end up showing symptoms of the virus, the CDC also recommends testing some asymptomatic pregnant women, too. If a patient might have been exposed to Zika through travel or a traveling sexual partner, the CDC now says a doctor should offer her a test even if she exhibits no symptoms.

The CDC has also highlighted the importance of timely Zika testing using multiple methods. Kaiser Health News reports:

Both symptomatic and asymptomatic pregnant women should be screened within two weeks of the date of possible Zika exposure through a DNA-based test known as PCR. PCR has been in use already, but until recently, was believed to only work within one week of exposure. If the PCR test turns up negative or an at-risk pregnant woman missed that initial two-week window, the CDC calls for screening with a test that searches for antibodies the virus produces. That test, which is effective for as long as 12 weeks after exposure, is considered a less reliable indicator and has drawn some criticism because it can generate false positives.

According to the new memo, “emerging data” suggests that Zika RNA can be detected in some pregnant women for longer than that initial one-week window, which makes the more reliable PCR test a far preferable option. The CDC has reemphasized how critical it is that doctors test pregnant women within a short period of time following potential exposure to try to catch the virus on the PCR test.

It may be another month or two before Zika begins to spread by mosquito in the Gulf Coast region, where it’s expected to hit first and worst. If researchers do develop a vaccine, it won’t become available until months later. Until then thorough conversations and vigilant screening are the best doctors can do to prevent the devastating effects of the virus on pregnant women and their fetuses.

July 26 2016 2:56 PM

Florida Rep. Alan Grayson Accused by Ex-Wife of Decades of Domestic Abuse

According to documents obtained by Politico, Florida Rep. Alan Grayson’s ex-wife, Lolita Grayson, went to police repeatedly over a two-decade period with accusations of domestic abuse. Congressman Grayson is in a tight Senate race against Rep. Patrick Murphy (the primary is on Aug. 30), and these accusations might just tip the election. Alan Grayson’s current wife, Dena Grayson, is running for his congressional seat.

The police reports Lolita Grayson submitted show that she called the police on her husband twice in Virginia and twice in Florida, and pursued medical attention on at least two occasions. She also claims that in one case her husband had threatened to kill her.


In 2014, Grayson actually accused his ex-wife of abusing him and strongly denied ever engaging in domestic abuse during their relationship. Grayson’s lawyer, Mark NeJame told Politico that “Lolita is a disturbed woman. She has made one false allegation after another. Her own daughter refutes her,” referring to a statement from Skye Grayson, the couple’s oldest child, who has claimed that her father never did anything wrong during the marriage. NeJame went on to point out that “there never has been a witness or any proof whatsoever of her claims. The claims have been so ridiculous that not one time has there even been enough probable cause to bring a charge or an arrest against Alan Grayson.”

Skye Grayson, who was also once accused of domestic abuse by her mother, has said that her mother “physically lashed out at me, my siblings and our father, and then blamed us for it, victimizing us. This resulted in a considerably troubled childhood home.”

These accusations could greatly impact the race for Grayson. By Tuesday afternoon, reports that progressive groups were planning to withdraw support were already spreading. The news represents something of a reversal for the politician, who, in 2012, accused his congressional opponent Todd Long of domestic abuse. (The accusations were refuted by Long’s ex-wife.) Back then, Grayson criticized the media for not doing more to highlight his claims, saying that he was “disgusted that no major media in this town will let people know things that our polling shows they regard as highly relevant.”