Ted Cruz’s New Chill, Sex-Positive Persona Is All Well and Good. It’s Also Preposterous.
Pity Ted Cruz. No one likes the guy. (“I just don’t like the guy”—George W. Bush) He’s spent the last few weeks being called out for his hypocrisy over hurricane aid. And now, just when he’d rather be selling his tax reform plan, he has spent almost an entire week talking about a pornographic tweet.
It is by now the stuff of legend: On Monday evening, Cruz’s official Twitter account clicked “like” on a tweet featuring hard-core porn, causing the tweet from account @SexuallPosts to show up on a section of Cruz’s public profile. Speculation ran wild, including at Slate. Did Cruz himself hit the like button? Did a staffer do it, and under what circumstances? On Tuesday, Cruz called it a “staffing issue,” furthering the story without clarifying it. Concerned watchdogs like CNN’s Chris Cillizza put Cruz on notice, treating the errant finger-twitch like the matter of national security that it was: “Cruz needs to clear this up. Immediately. Possibly sooner.” On Wednesday, he cleared it up—or at least tried to. In an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash, he said a staff member “accidentally hit the wrong button.”
A Textbook Now Features Brock Turner’s Crime As the Literal Definition of “Rape.” There’s One Key Problem With That.
Brock Turner earned national fame last summer not for his sexual assault of a passed-out woman behind a dumpster, but for his punishment: six months in county jail, of which he only served three. The internet’s consensus, after reading the victim’s viral statement on BuzzFeed, was that it was far too short a stint for a crime that carried a possible sentence of 14 years in prison.
But, though he left jail just over a year ago, Turner’s consequences are far from over. HuffPost reported on Wednesday that the former Stanford swimmer’s mugshot appears next to a section titled “Rape” in the second edition of Introduction to Criminal Justice: Systems, Diversity, and Change, a book used in college-level criminal justice courses. It sounds like a snarky insult come to life: “Your photo should be in the encyclopedia under ‘rapist!’ ” The crime Turner’s father famously characterized as “20 minutes of action” is now immortalized as the literal textbook definition of rape.
This should please those who chastised media outlets that didn’t out-and-out label Turner a “rapist” in coverage of his sentencing. But there was a good reason for careful language in his case: Turner wasn’t convicted of rape. He was convicted of three felonies: assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated person, sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object, and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object. In California, a charge of rape requires forcible sexual intercourse, which Turner did not commit.
Putting Turner’s photo next to the heading “Rape,” then, is more than a little misleading in an introductory textbook that should help students differentiate between crimes that are similar but not identical. The description under the heading also identifies the photo as “rapist Brock Turner”—an inaccurate characterization of Turner’s crimes. Under the FBI definition of rape proffered in the book, the crime does include penetration with a foreign object. But under the penal code of California, where Turner was charged, his crime was not rape, and he is not a “rapist.” It wasn’t the particulars of his assault that made him a newsworthy sexual assailant. It was the response to the crime, both from the judge in his case and from the general public.
But to its credit, the textbook does seem to want to present Turner as a case study through which to examine the subjectivity of the justice system. “Some are shocked at how short [Turner’s] sentence is,” the book reads. “Others who are more familiar with the way sexual violence has been handled in the criminal justice system are shocked that he was found guilty and served time at all. What do you think?”
With her heartwrenching statement, the victim in Turner’s case changed the way many people viewed sexual assault. She opened the door for difficult discussions about theories of fair sentencing, including the idea that a permanent spot on a sex offender registry is too harsh a punishment for Turner, or for anyone else—theories that students should absolutely dissect in criminal justice classrooms. If Turner hadn’t become one of most famous noncelebrity sexual assailants of all time, for better or worse, the textbook authors might have chosen another lesser-known figure to illustrate the topic or left the concept in the realm of theory. With the public discourse Turner’s victim began, at least the authors were able to use a familiar case to bring a vivid urgency to both a terrible crime and our inadequate system for punishing it.
These Old Photos of Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer Are a Deeply Moving Portrait of Queer Love and Desire
On Tuesday, one of the heroes of the modern gay rights movement died at the age of 88. Edie Windsor, whose Supreme Court victory slayed the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013, quickly rose to fame in the years that followed, becoming a recognizable face at queer benefits and celebrations. Her platinum-blond bob and impeccable style made her a ready icon, emanating the kind of joy and defiant glamour on which gay communities have thrived for generations.
If you follow a critical mass of queers on social media, your feeds, like mine, have filled with posts memorializing Windsor in the day since her death. Many include old photos of Windsor with her late wife, Thea Spyer, who died in 2009 after living for years with multiple sclerosis, just two years after the couple married in Canada. Because their marriage wasn’t recognized in New York, where they lived, Spyer’s death stuck Windsor with an estate tax bill in excess of $600,000. A legal wife would have been exempt from the tax—a fact of inequality that the Supreme Court used to justify its overturning of DOMA.
Now, that marriage serves as a vital symbol of queer love flourishing in the inhospitable landscape of a homophobic society. Scrolling through the photos that document their more than four decades together is an affirming experience unmatched by most other posthumous tributes to famous political figures. In images of Windsor and Spyer loving on one another, queer people can see themselves.
Part of the magic here is that the couple’s photos span several decades, from times that didn’t produce many photos of queer couples. Windsor and Spyer got engaged in 1967, when cameras were a luxury and film processing took some effort. Plus, back then, many gay couples lived in secret; they didn’t document their relationships on paper at all. Any old photos we see today are usually pictures of family members, famous people, or historic events. Unless one’s parents or friends are gay and past middle age, it’s incredibly rare to see a collection of photos of a gay couple that date back to the ’60s and march right up to present day. The existence of these images is a reminder that queer love has persisted throughout history, that mid-century queer life meant not only gay-bashings and clandestine bars, but also transcendent connection.
Then there are the photos themselves, which testify to a profound, radiant love. Windsor has spoken eloquently about what it’s like to care for someone with a debilitating illness, recounting how they spun around dance floors on Spyer’s wheelchair and how insulting it was when people treated Windsor like her caretaker. “I was never her nurse—I’m her lover!” Windsor once told the New Yorker. “I was just doing things to make her comfortable—and that was with loving her and digging her.” She said they never abandoned their hot-as-hell sex life, even when the physicality of the act became complicated as Spyer’s condition worsened. In images of the couple from decades past, that desire is palpable: They frequently lean on one another, press their cheeks together, lock eyes like they’re about to kiss. The photo used to promote Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement, a documentary about their relationship, is bracingly intimate, as if the viewer happened upon the couple in their own bedroom.
These pictures hit me straight in the gut, both because of what Windsor gave us and because, in her love with Spyer, I see my own lovers and friends. Some of the photos seem to capture ordinary moments, when a pal with a camera saw a happy couple and hit the shutter. At the beach, in the city, in cluttered rooms and front yards, Spyer and Windsor could be any pair of lesbians navigating everyday life. I recognize their body language, the way they fit together as a butch-femme pair; I can see why Spyer made Windsor’s heart quiver and why Windsor made Spyer’s turn to mush. Even their old-school clothes, important markers of gender presentation, resonate with gays of today: I know at least three dykes with the oversized frames Windsor sported in this poolside shot and several dapper queers who would kill for Spyer’s tailored trousers and loafers this fall. They are an undeniably beautiful couple. That helps.
Long after these photos were taken, after Spyer’s death and her Supreme Court win, Windsor got remarried to a woman more than 35 years her junior. (Respect.) She spent the last several years of her life with her arms wide open, showing up all over the damn place to embrace the queer community she’d long loved, which finally got to love her back, loud and in public. Windsor was honored in several Pride parades, sure, but she also walked in the dyke marches, the more radical, in-your-face celebrations, better known for exposed breasts and protest chants than rainbow lanyards and celebrities on floats. She was one of the best of us. More importantly, in both her world-changing activism and her passionate, everyday love, she was one of us.
Abortion Access in Missouri Is Getting Easier, Thanks to Planned Parenthood and Satanists
Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d write: Abortion access in Missouri is booming. Until this month, the state had only one abortion provider—a Planned Parenthood health center in St. Louis. On Monday, the organization announced that its clinic in Kansas City is now offering medication abortion. Its Columbia outpost will soon offer surgical abortions, too, and two others will likely follow.
For the past several years, Planned Parenthood and other women’s health clinics in Missouri have been targeted by restrictions that forced abortion providers to get admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and retrofit their facilities to meet surgical center standards. Those laws eventually became common goals of anti-abortion legislators around the country, but Missouri was ahead of the curve: In 1986, it was the first state to enact mandatory hospital admitting privileges. After the Supreme Court’s historic ruling that overturned similar restrictions in Texas, Planned Parenthood and two other reproductive rights groups took Missouri to federal court, arguing that it had four clinics in the state that could provide abortions—in addition to existing contraceptive care and health services—if the regulations were lifted.
A federal judge sided with Planned Parenthood in April and blocked officials from continuing to enforce the two anti-abortion provisions in Missouri. Now four clinics are working to get licensed for abortion care in the state: In addition to the Kansas City location, which stopped offering abortions five years ago, and the Columbia one—which stopped in the fall of 2015 when University of Missouri administrators voted to revoke its hospital admitting privileges—Planned Parenthood intends to offer abortion care at its Joplin and Springfield centers after their state inspections.
This rapid turnaround makes the state an illustration of the best-case scenario when courts reverse abortion restrictions. Other states aren’t so lucky. Often, such restrictions cause abortion providers to close completely, especially if the clinics aren’t affiliated with larger national organizations such as Planned Parenthood, which can provide some measure of stability as regulations shift. And when a clinic shuts down, there’s no guarantee that it’ll reopen once the restrictions that caused its closure fall away. A year after the Supreme Court’s Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt decision, only two of the nearly two-dozen abortion providers that shuttered due to the two provisions axed by the court had resumed abortion services.
Missouri’s recent stroke of good fortune in the reproductive rights realm may have to do with intervention from the fiery underworld. On Monday, the Satanic Temple argued in a Missouri court that the state’s abortion restrictions violate worshippers’ rights to free religious practice. The organization is challenging two Missouri laws: one that requires patients to look at unscientific anti-abortion propaganda and another that forces them to wait 72 hours between their initial consultations and a second appointments for their abortions. Satanic Temple members argue that their religion prizes rational, independent thought and that forcing Satanists to read anti-abortion pamphlets and “consider a religious proposition with which they do not agree” during the 72-hour waiting period constitutes a violation of their beliefs.
The Satanic challenge to the laws began in 2015, when a pregnant Satanist from rural Missouri identified as “Mary” tried to use a religious waiver to exempt herself from the state’s many requirements designed to prevent women from going forward with abortions. Mary said she had the $800 she needed to get the abortion, but to get to the clinic in St. Louis for two separate appointments, she needed to save up for gas money, a hotel, and child care. As a Satanist, Mary said, she believes her body is “inviolable”—thus, a mandatory waiting period with no medical justification that hampers her bodily autonomy inflicts a “substantial burden” on her “sincerely held religious beliefs,” as does the law that requires she be informed that “abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being.” The temple filed both state and federal lawsuits challenging the restrictions; a judge tossed out the federal case in 2016 because Mary was no longer pregnant.
Missouri argues that just because the laws align with the tenets of certain religions doesn’t mean the state is advocating on behalf of those religions. But don’t tell that to the Missouri state legislator who slaughtered a chicken on camera in June to make some kind of statement against legal abortion. “God gave us man dominion over life. He allows us to raise animals properly and care for them and then process them for food so we can sustain life. And that’s what I’m doing here with this chicken,” Rep. Mike Moon said before ripping out the animal’s heart. Three cheers for Missouri, the upside-down land where Christians perform the gruesome animal sacrifices and Satanists bring the religious freedom lawsuits.
Critics Aren’t Taking Issue With the Content of Hillary Clinton’s New Book So Much as Its Right to Exist
There is no one who loves talking about the 2016 election more than Donald Trump, who brings it up in public more than once a week on average. There is no one so keen to linger over the outcome of Election Day, to pick at old grudges, and dress down old opponents than Trump. No one, some prominent Democrats would have you believe, other than Hillary Clinton.
“I love Hillary,” Sen. Al Franken recently told Yahoo News. “I think she has a right to analyze what happened. But we do have to move on.” On the Late Show, Sen. Bernie Sanders reminded Clinton that she “ran against the most unpopular candidate in the history of this country” and still couldn’t eke out a win. “She was upset about it and I understand that,” Sanders said. “But our job is not to go backward. ... I think it’s a little bit silly to keep talking about 2016.”
Given that 2016 saw an unprecedented electoral upset that resulted in the least-qualified president in U.S. history, nine months seems an awfully short grace period for acceptable discourse on the outcome. And Clinton isn’t just talking about the worst setback of her professional life—she’s selling it. What Happened, her highly anticipated 494-page postmortem on her last campaign, hits bookstores on Tuesday, ensuring that the conversation some Democrats don’t want to have will continue for at least as long as Clinton’s book tour.
Early reviews take issue with the book’s right to exist as much as the quality of its contents. “Was this book necessary?” asks Doyle McManus in the lede of his Los Angeles Times review, suggesting that Clinton should have shoved her manuscript into a desk drawer rather than offer it up for public consumption. Doug Schoen, a former Clinton ally, told the failed candidate in a Hill piece that it is “time to exit the stage” and stop doing harm to her political party by simply showing up. “Friends don’t let friends read Hillary Clinton’s new book,” wrote a critic at the Week who refused to even crack it open before making her judgment. “Whatever you want to read this book for, chances are, there’s something else that does it better.”
Conservative media outlets show particular glee in their reporting that Clinton’s book will ravage the Democratic Party and her own future in politics. The world is “sick of hearing from her,” writes Katherine Timpf at the National Review, calling it a feat of “self-indulgent dead-horse-beating” and the product of a “selfish urge to present as many excuses as you can to absolve yourself of any blame for your embarrassing defeat.” In the Washington Times, Ben Wolfgang argues that “the American people simply don’t want to hear from [Clinton],” quoting a poli-sci professor who believes Clinton should have “not written a book and been quiet for another eight months.”
That Washington Times piece calls What Happened a “blame book”—and certainly, most assessments of the tome are preoccupied with the question of blame. The juiciest excerpts so far are those that find Clinton casting shade on Sanders (he emboldened Trump’s attacks and promised every American a free pony), James Comey (he “shivved” her and “badly overstepped his bounds”), the New York Times (it dragged her over her emails but glossed over Trump–Russia connections during the campaign). But the bigger question with which critics are grappling is whether or not Clinton claims enough blame for her own unexpected loss. “Despite seemingly suggesting the fault is hers alone, Clinton also clearly believes that a lot of other people are responsible, too,” writes Bess Levin in her Vanity Fair roundup of “People Clinton Blames for Her Election Loss.” Another Washington Times piece reported that What Happened is “yet another campaign to blame everybody she can for her crushing loss.” Schoen wrote that “the only person [Clinton] does not seem to blame is herself.” Even the Associated Press claimed in a straight news piece about the book that Clinton “has a reputation for avoiding blame for her failures.” It seems that these critics, unsatisfied with Clinton’s concession speech, are holding out for a full-blown apology.
But Clinton could hardly have been more explicit about where the buck stopped in her campaign. “I go back over my own shortcomings and the mistakes we made,” she writes in one oft-quoted excerpt. “I take responsibility for all of them. You can blame the data, blame the message, blame anything you want—but I was the candidate. It was my campaign. Those were my decisions.” There it is: Clinton blaming herself for her loss. If that’s where her critics would have rather she stopped, What Happened would have been a PR statement, not a book.
It's true that the democracy-defying 2016 election merits more than a five-sentence mea culpa from the woman who lost. Clinton as a bad candidate is just one sliver of the rancid pie that caused America to vomit up President Trump. Even the election analyses most critical of Clinton don’t dare place all the blame on her Wall Street speeches, email-management missteps, or comments about putting coal companies out of business. The additional facts she offers as contributing factors to her loss—Sanders’ “attacks caused lasting damage”; sexism helped make her “a lightning rod for fury”—are measured and probably true. They’re nothing readers haven’t encountered before in the thousands of thinkpieces they devoured in the months after the election. Almost nobody thinks Hillary Clinton alone is responsible for the defeat that shocked the entire world.
When Clinton acknowledges that truth, as she does in What Happened, critics portray her as a petty shirker of accountability. Democratic Rep. Jared Huffman of California told Politico that Clinton is forcing the party to endure endless “media cycles about the blame game, and the excuses.” In a recent Morning Consult poll, 39 percent of 2,000 respondents said Hillary Clinton should cease all influence on the Democratic Party. Just 40 percent said it would be OK for her to write books. That the public was asked to weigh in on the seemliness of Clinton’s post-election plans is itself a marker of how personally the country takes her every move, as if she were not a politician but a despised national mascot.
What if, just like much of the rest of the electorate, she’s simply looking to make meaning out of an event that shattered her illusions about the country she calls home? The 2016 election was unlike any other: Nearly a year after the election, conversations with my friends and colleagues still occasionally end up in “what happened?” territory. Ordinary people are still piecing the 2016 narrative together. It’s no surprise that they might want to hear the loser’s perspective, even if members of her party don’t.
Finally, a New Policy We Know Trump Truly Believes in: Protections for Sexual Assaulters
Betsy DeVos gave credence to the fears of anti-rape activists on Thursday when she finally did the thing they’ve expected her to do since her confirmation. In a speech at George Mason University, the secretary of education announced her intention to roll back Obama-era guidance that forced universities that receive federal funding to take more aggressive action against campus sexual assault.
DeVos accused the federal government of using “intimidation and coercion” to make schools comply with stricter Department of Education directives that came down in 2011. The “Dear Colleague” letter, as it is commonly known, required universities to complete expedient investigations of accusations, lower the standard of evidence needed to hold an accused student responsible, prevent harassment of victims on campus, and stop making victims sign nondisclosure agreements. DeVos took issue with the new guidance’s more comprehensive definitions of assault and harassment. “If everything is harassment, then nothing is,” she said, claiming that students and teachers had been punished for Title IX offenses simply for “speaking their minds.”
The other telltale sign that the “Dear Colleague” guidance was not long for this world was the person sitting in the Oval Office. Donald Trump has given his rancid imprimatur to all manner of causes and policies about which he seems to know or care very little. He once identified as “pro-choice”; now he advances anti-abortion policies more punishing than those of his right-wing predecessors, even as he slips up on the anti-abortion talking points. While Trump was busy absorbing his twice-daily lathering of positive cable news chyrons, Steve Bannon, back when he was still oozing about the White House, could whisper a few epithets into the president’s ear and we'd all wake up the next morning to a nuclear clash of civilizations.
Sexual assault, on the other hand, is a cause near and dear to Trump, the rare political matter in which he actually has some experience. More than a dozen women have given public accounts of his various alleged sex crimes, giving him valuable insight into the plight of the accused. On this issue, his mind holds two mutually exclusive principles to be simultaneously true: that women are lying when they allege sexual assault, and that the actions they describe did occur but don’t warrant any accountability from the perpetrator. Groping is flirting, and barging in on naked beauty queens is a purchasable privilege of rich men. But also, the women who claim those things happened are liars out for fame and money, and plus, they’re too ugly to assault. Trump has convinced himself that he’s a victim of a witch hunt perpetrated by an inherently untrustworthy subclass—women—that’s trying to take down the good ol’ university boys, those original espousers of “locker room talk,” too.
The DeVos Department of Education echoes this paradigm through and through. When DeVos invited men’s rights groups to advise her on Title IX policy this summer, she included infamous trolls who claim that the “leading reason” for domestic abuse is “female initiation of partner violence” and dox women who accuse men of rape. Candice Jackson, who DeVos tapped to lead the department’s Office for Civil Rights, recently scoffed to the New York Times that a full 90 percent of campus sexual assault allegations “fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,’ ‘we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right.’”
Imagine the college student who has endured a sexual assault and looks online for her avenues of recourse, only to find that the woman charged with addressing all federal claims of harassment and discrimination believes nearly every college student with the courage to file an official rape allegation is full of shit. The chilling effect the DeVos Department of Education will have on sexual assault reports will certainly please Trump. But his larger goal is to send a message to women that the government is not on their side. Nearly every policy shift Trump makes that rallies his base without any real legislative accomplishment—the transgender military ban, the decision to cease data collection on race- and gender- based wage disparities, the ending of DACA—serves the general purpose of demoralizing marginalized populations by letting them know the country stands with their oppressors.
To accomplish this goal, Trump must manage some pretty impressive feats of intellectual dissonance. Police officers should rough up the suspects they arrest, but universities should go easy on accused rapists. Honor killings by immigrant men are a threat to American women, but grants to prevent violence against women are bogus. Sifting through the president’s actions, it can be hard to find any kernel of conviction. At the root of his few true impulses is identity politics—namely, his identity as a white man and his desire to protect the same. There’s one other identity at play, and he shares it with the accused sexual assailants DeVos championed on Thursday. That makes her rollback of Title IX protections one of Trump’s most honest moves yet.
A U.K. Store Will Stop Labeling Its Kids Clothes as “Boys” and “Girls.” But It’s Not About the Kids.
The venerable British department store chain John Lewis announced last weekend that it would remove “boys” and “girls” labels from its brand of children’s clothing. Instead, the store will label its clothes, including dresses and skirts, as “Girls & Boys” or “Boys & Girls.” “We do not want to reinforce gender stereotypes within our John Lewis collections and instead want to provide greater choice and variety to our customers, so that the parent or child can choose what they would like to wear,” the brand’s head of children’s wear told reporters. The store also plans to stop marking separate sections for girls’ and boys’ clothes.
Thinx Founder Wore Breast Pumps Around Burning Man and Shared Milk With Burners
Now that the gyrating hordes have returned from Burning Man, it’s time to catch up on all the beautiful acts of intention and community and MDMA they committed on the playa. This year’s star is Miki Agrawal, former purveyor of Thinx period underwear and living, breathing TED talk. In an Instagram slideshow Agrawal posted on Tuesday, the new mother described pumping breast milk for her three days at the annual dust bowl.
“So many people told me that they had no idea that I had to keep pumping every three hours because they didn’t know that breasts would become engorged and super painful if they were not pumped,” Agrawal wrote, “nature's way of keeping mama and baby working together :-)”
Because Burning Man encourages an ethos of gift-giving, Agrawal didn’t keep her nutritious secretions to herself. She gave most of it away to consenting adults, who apparently couldn’t get enough. “Some people downed a whole four ounces hoping for a hangover cure,” Agrawal wrote on Instagram. “Some wanted it for their coffee to make lattes. So many were excited and curious to try it. I drank some too when I ran out of water, it tastes like sweet coconut milk!” Apparently this is common practice on the playa: Other breast-feeding commenters on the post wrote that they “loved sharing all the wonders of breastmilk” with other burners and served it to patrons at a Burning Man diner.
This endorsement of public breast milk consumption, accompanied by several photos of Agrawal wearing her breast pumps around the playa, is truly the ne plus ultra of posts about breast-feeding shaming. Not only is Agrawal proudly asserting her need and right to pump in a place that doesn’t look particularly hospitable to pumping, but she is passing the pump tube to another burner like she’s administering a beer bong. Women have said in their social media accounts of breast-feeding and pumping in public that it is natural, necessary, and a perfectly OK thing to do around strangers. To that, Agrawal adds: a fantastic source of party refreshments.
Agrawal is pretty much the personification of Burning Man, making her the perfect vessel for this peak–Burning Man performance of radical self-reliance. She digs startup wordplay—she called herself the “She-E-O” of Thinx and is writing a book called Disrupt-Her—and peppers her personal website with identifiers like “social entrepreneur,” “impact investor,” “dreamer,” and “societal-norm-busting-millennial.” She considers herself a capitalist revolutionary, wrote a book called Do Cool Shit, and has a fetish for ill-proportioned hats. She sometimes plays the DJ at parties for the organization her sister founded: Daybreaker, which, like Burning Man, is a gathering of forced profundity where people wear lamé and, you know, connect.
She also loves talking about bodily fluids. In addition to the period underwear, Agrawal has launched a line of underwear for urinary incontinence and a portable bidet called Tushy. A former Thinx employee filed a sexual harassment complaint against Agrawal for, among other inappropriate office behaviors, FaceTime-ing employees from the toilet. One wonders if Agrawal’s “got breastmilk?” post is a low-key ad for some forthcoming venture centered on a better breast pump—or as is Agrawal’s shtick, subverting the taboos around breast pumping. “Every human has been birthed and raised somehow and yet even the smartest people have no idea what this process looks like,” she wrote on her Instagram slideshow. “Nobody learns how to become a parent, let alone a good one. Time to change this! Great parenting can change the world! More conversations about this soon!” Soon.
But if Agrawal’s breast-milk bistro—“Miki’s Milk Bar,” an Instagram commenter said it was called—was a promotion scheme for some future innovation around her new favorite secretion, it would violate one of Burning Man’s core principles: decommodification, which forbids sponsorships and advertising. “Breast milk” would also screw up the pneumonic device of her current brand, the four Ps: pee, poop, periods, and pizza. That incongruous last entry refers to a gluten-free pizza chain she started in New York. No word on where they get their cheese.
Texan Survivors of Harvey Can Get Free Abortion Care, With Travel Costs Covered
Whole Woman’s Health, a group of clinics that provide abortion care and other health services, announced on Friday that it will offer free abortions to women impacted by the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. Noting that women in the Houston area and elsewhere in southeast Texas may have had to miss abortion appointments during the storm, a blog post on the Whole Woman’s Health website promised to help affected women get to one of the organization’s four Texas locations for abortion care at no cost.
“During Hurricane Harvey, many of the clinics in Houston had to close temporarily, leaving women with very few options,” the post read. “Continued political attacks on abortion access make an unwanted pregnancy particularly stressful in Texas—add that to the stress of dealing with hurricane aftermath.”
Natural disasters exacerbate existing logistical and financial barriers to women’s health care access. Women on Medicaid can’t use their insurance to cover or subsidize abortion care, and low-income women may save for weeks to afford the procedure, only to find that they’re too far along to get a cheaper medical abortion or to get a legal abortion at all in the state. After losing property or wages to a hurricane, even more women may find it difficult to pay for an abortion. Where it was once merely difficult to afford child care and time off work to accommodate an abortion appointment, after a natural disaster, it can be nearly impossible. And since women are usually the default caretakers of their families, they face the bulk of the extra responsibilities that come after a tragedy, including making arrangements for relief, organizing relocation, and caring for the young and old. This further diminishes the reserves of time and resources available for their own health care.
For the month of September, Whole Woman’s Health—the successful plaintiff in last summer’s landmark Supreme Court case on abortion restrictions—will cover both travel and housing costs for Harvey-affected women who need help getting to the organization’s outposts in Austin, Fort Worth, McAllen, or San Antonio. The group will draw from its own abortion fund, the Stigma Relief Fund, as well as the Lilith Fund, a Texas-specific abortion-funding organization that has established an emergency fund for care for Harvey survivors. Slate recommended donating to abortion funds after Donald Trump’s election because they support people who, by virtue of their class, geographic location, or immigration status, can’t access abortion care, a right wealthier women will almost always be able to enjoy. It’s for this same reason—that they empower the most marginalized people exercise autonomy over their own bodies—that abortion funds are essential resources in the aftermath of a natural disaster.
All over the world, in all kinds of crisis situations, women’s sexual and reproductive health care is one of the first basic needs to fall through the cracks of disaster relief. Rates of sexual assault rise in crisis zones, and distraught survivors are more likely to engage in sexual behaviors that put them at risk for unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. At the same time, agencies focused on food, shelter, and first aid often neglect sexual health needs that don’t go away when disaster strikes. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that emergency health care providers stock up on emergency contraception, preventive contraception, and condoms when they help communities recover from a natural disaster. These are resources no one’s sending in their donation boxes of diapers and canned food.
Abortion care is even trickier to ensure in the wake of a crisis, since federal funds can’t be spent on abortions and politicians may be reluctant to single out a controversial medical procedure as a critical need during a time of recovery. Abortion funds in Texas are filling in the gaps of Harvey relief, because that’s what abortion funds are designed to do.
Kate Middleton and Japan’s Princess Mako Showcase Two Different Gendered Models of Royal Succession
The imperial family of Japan is facing a looming succession crisis. Current law forbids female family members and their children from ascending to the throne, meaning only male children of male family members may become emperor someday.
But of the 19 people in the Japanese royal family, just five are men, including 83-year-old Emperor Akihito, who plans to abdicate his position next year. He’ll pass the throne to his eldest son, Crown Prince Naruhito. Naruhito has no sons, so he’ll pass it to his younger brother Akishino. Akishino’s only son and Akihito’s only male grandchild, 10-year-old Hisahito, is next in line. If he doesn’t have any sons, there will be no one left to take his place.
The fast-approaching end of Akihito’s reign isn’t the only cause for concern among those invested in the future of Japanese monarchy. On Sunday morning, Princess Mako, Akihito’s oldest grandchild and Akishino’s oldest child, announced her engagement to a commoner. Japanese law dictates that male royals can marry outside the imperial family and retain their status, but women cannot. When 25-year-old Mako marries legal assistant Kei Komuro, her college boyfriend, she’ll finally get the right to vote but forfeit her allowance from the government, her title, and her last name.
A large majority of Japanese residents—86 percent, according to a May 2017 poll—believe that women should be eligible for the throne, and 59 percent think the children of female family members should also count in the line of succession. Sixty-one percent want princesses to be able to stay in the imperial family after their marriages to commoners, helping to expand the family tree as those couples grew their own branches of descendants. Now, Japanese legislators must decide which is more important: the continued existence of a dwindling imperial bloodline or its strict patrilineal heritage.
The country’s parliament is already in the midst of shaking up the imperial rules. Over the summer, legislators passed a popular bill allowing Akihito to abdicate the throne as per his wishes, an option that was previously forbidden to monarchs who had to serve for life. More conservative members of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party worried that considering such a bill would force them to open debate on the female succession issue, which is governed by the same 1947 law. Abe shut down these nascent debates earlier this year, suggesting that some former “collateral” branches of the imperial family, which were cut off with that 1947 law, be let back in or have their sons adopted by current princes to expand the pool of potential heirs. The largest opposition party in Japan, the Democratic Party, is advocating for a legal shift that would let women already in the family to reign instead.
By some accounts, even Emperor Akihito supports such a change. Empresses are not unheard of in Japan: Though emperors used to have concubines to increase the likelihood of producing male heirs, eight women in the family have sat on the throne in the 125 recorded generations of the imperial family. They were largely considered stand-ins until patrilineal successors could take over. There are few good arguments beside tradition for the endurance of government-supported monarchs, and even fewer for the restriction of the throne to men. Mako could just as easily perform the duties of an empress, minimal as they are, as her grandfather, and imperial genes will persist in her future children as much as they will in her brother’s. There’s another word for a tradition that would rather reintegrate families who have been commoners for generations into the imperial line than treat women as equally valued members: sexism.
Meanwhile, the United Kingdom is about to see a recent measure for monarchical gender equality finally come into play. Kensington Palace announced early Monday morning that Kate Middleton is pregnant with her third child, adding another heir to Prince William’s growing lineup. In previous generations, a new baby boy would have taken the place of older sister Charlotte, baby No. 2, in the line of succession. But a law passed soon after Middleton joined the family in 2011 ensured that any daughter of a U.K. monarch would have an equal shot at ascending to the throne as a son would. Royal families are indefensible mooches on the government, but as long as they exist, a Charlotte or a Mako shouldn’t have to see her rightful place on the throne usurped by an annoying younger brother.