The XX Factor
What Women Really Think

Sept. 28 2016 5:21 PM

Sabrina the Teenage Witch Is Now Heading Gary Johnson’s Campaign in Connecticut

The fates are smiling on third-party presidential candidate Gary Johnson this week. It once seemed that the libertarian darling stood no chance against the organizational heft and overflowing coffers of the Trump and Clinton machines, that nothing short of a miracle could land him in the White House. Unfortunately, miracles are made-up—but, luckily for Johnson, magic is real.

That must be why Johnson named Melissa Joan Hart, the titular sorceress of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, chairperson of his campaign’s Connecticut office. The former Clarissa Explains It All star has her work cut out for her with this latest pickle. But if Johnson can’t muster the polling numbers he needs to make it into the presidential debates, surely Clarissa can cook up one of her hare-brained schemes to get him on the stage! And while she’s at it, perhaps she can explain to the candidate what Aleppo isand why colonizing other planets is not a valid contingency plan for dealing with climate change.

Sept. 28 2016 1:54 PM

More Kids Are Dressing Up as Superheroes Than Princesses for Halloween

According to a survey from the National Retail Federation, this Halloween, more kids will dress up as action stars and superheroes than princesses for the first time in 12 years. With its recent poll of 6,791 Americans, the NRF predicts that more than 3 million children will wear hero costumes for trick-or-treating next month.

A quick glance at the survey results might suggest a welcome change in gendered expectations for little girls. Princess culture celebrates physical beauty and the attraction of male suitors; superhero culture celebrates daring and smarts employed for good. If children are starting to privilege the latter over the former—and if girls are starting to see themselves as capable world-savers as much as ballgoers born into royalty—that’s great.

Sept. 28 2016 1:44 PM

Morning Sickness Is No Fun for a Mom, but It May Be Good for Her Baby

A common misconception about evolution is that it always results in progress, and species and organisms become perfectly adapted to their environments and circumstances over time. The reality is that natural selection is perfectly content with good-enough, and is quite hospitable to maintaining traits that are deeply flawed.

I’ve long imagined that at least some of the difficulties surrounding conception and pregnancy fall under this category; the reproductive process for humans works, but it is far from ideal. The act of making, gestating and birthing babies is grueling, and subjects women to a considerable amount of discomfort. One of the biggest struggles comes during the first trimester, when the majority of women experience extreme exhaustion and nausea. I’m currently nearing the end of this period myself, and have spent much of the past two months wondering if, as some have suggested, there is an adaptive purpose to feeling like crap.

Sept. 28 2016 10:31 AM

The Cost of Child Care in America Is Even More Outrageous Than You Thought

One of the stranger policy twists in this very strange election season is that the high cost of child care has become a favorite talking point for both the Democratic and Republican nominees for president. Hillary Clinton proposes capping child care expenses at 10 percent of a family’s income. And Donald Trump has said he would allow parents to deduct the cost of child care from their income taxes—thereby excluding the low-income families who most need help, but never mind. Forty-five years after President Nixon vetoed a universal child care plan because of its “family-weakening implications,” today both major-party nominees see child care costs as a problem that benefits them to address.

Today, a new joint report from the think tank New America and illustrates why. In short, the cost of child care in America is outrageous. The average cost of enrolling a child age 4 or younger full-time at a child care center in America is $9,589 a year, which is higher than the average cost of in-state college tuition. A family earning the median household income would spend 18 percent of it on child care. For a single parent earning minimum wage, child care would eat up 64 percent of her income. And that’s for one child. For perspective, child care is considered affordable if it doesn’t exceed 10 percent of a family’s income, according to standards from the Department of Health and Human Services. Not only are current costs way beyond that for many parents, but they have risen at nearly twice the rate of inflation since the end of the recession.

Of course, the U.S. remains the only industrialized country that does not require employers to provide even a single day of paid parental leave, and the Family and Medical Leave Act mandates just 12 weeks of unpaid leave for mothers after childbirth. That means many working parents need to place their children in some kind of care setting within weeks. And the costs for infant care are 12 percent higher than they are for older children, according to the new report. Meanwhile, only 11 percent of child-care centers and home-based care settings are accredited, a measure of both basic safety and educational quality in what is increasingly understood to be a crucial developmental period.

The report addresses quality and availability of care along with cost. All vary widely in what the report describes as the country’s “fragmented, patchwork system.” With expenses so high and availability so spotty, many families decide to rely instead on the “gray market” of unregulated options: care provided by family, friends, or neighbors, which is often unreliable and even unsafe. In other cases, women (yes, usually women) cut back on their hours or simply opt to stay home with their children, making the reasonable calculation that it makes little financial sense to work if your income is effectively being funneled into the child care that you need because you’re going to work.

Meanwhile, child care workers themselves are often paid poverty wages. Nationally, their median wages are less than half of the average for kindergarten teachers, according to a report released in July by the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment. In 2015, almost half of early childhood workers in the U.S. relied on public assistance. When it comes to child care in America, parents, children, and providers are somehow all getting the short end of the stick. The “family-weakening implications” of our current broken system deserve attention during this presidential election—and afterward.

Sept. 27 2016 1:42 PM

Why Did Trump Bring Up Rosie O’Donnell of All People in the Debate?

In Monday night’s debate, Donald Trump ticked off some of the accomplishments that qualify him to lead our nation: He has had big-league success in the business world, he was against the Iraq war (ish), and he and he alone has protected our country from the longstanding threat that is Rosie O’Donnell. Yes, Rosie O’Donnell: actress, comedian, former talk show host, freeform poet, onetime bestie of Madonna, and, apparently, national menace worthy of mentioning in a presidential debate. Now, shouldn’t a presidential candidate have bigger concerns? Wouldn’t a worthy presidential nemesis be, I don’t know, the head of ISIS or North Korea, and not a woman who used to be best known for starring in A League of Their Own and shooting koosh balls into her adoring audience?

Sept. 27 2016 1:15 PM

Helpful Critiques of Hillary Clinton’s Mouth Shape From Men Watching the Debate

Monday night’s presidential debate looked and sounded like a tiff between a petulant, sociopathic toddler and the world’s most patient, cool-headed teacher.Hillary Clinton was unflappable, maintaining a calm, slightly condescending smile while Donald Trump dribbled out bits of wordstuff. She stuck to facts and arguments without taking his ad hominem bait, while he shredded whatever bits of political decorum America has left.

Sept. 27 2016 10:41 AM

This Ice Cream Shop Came Up With Two Candidate-Themed Flavors That Don’t Trivialize the Election

Every fall of an election year, like clockwork, the candidate-themed food and drinks start appearing. In 2000, 7-Eleven introduced its unscientific 7-Election poll, allowing customers to choose between Bush- and Gore-labeled cups for their coffee. In 2004, D.C. residents chose between a Kerry burrito (featuring baked beans and Heinz 57) and a Bush burrito (with potatoes and hickory) at California Tortilla. In 2008, you could order an Obama- or McCain-themed burger, wash it down with an Obama- or McCain-themed cocktail, and then have one of Baskin-Robbins’ Obama- or McCain-themed ice creams for dessert. There were too many establishmentsoffering up Obama- and Romney-themed dishes in 2012 to count. All of these limited-time offers were transparent ploys for publicity, attempts to gin up sales by appealing to consumers’ inner political animals.

Sept. 27 2016 8:47 AM

Muslims Should Praise Hijabi Journalist Noor Tagouri, Not Criticize Her

Last year, Playboy made a public decision to shake nude photographs from the brand. The announcement was initially met by skepticism, but since then, the magazine has successfully enhanced the place of actual journalism within its pages. In the latest issue, Playboy reporters wrote about race in a feature on Paul Beatty, a black novelist. They discussed activism in an interview with rapper Vince Staples. And, for the first time ever, Playboy featured a Muslim American in the magazine. Journalist Anna del Gaizo interviewed aspiring news anchor Noor Tagouri about the American-hijabi (headscarf or veil-wearing) experience, her aspirations, and the current political climate. It was a great opportunity for a Muslim woman to get some visibility.

But none of what she talked about seemed to matter to the droves of critics Tagouri, a reporter for Newsy, subsequently encountered online. Articles published in large outlets question whether or not she let Muslims down. On Twitter, users called her ugly names like #hoejabi. One Muslim publication even questioned her commitment to God. As a Muslim man, I try to avoid speaking for Muslim women, as that happens enough as it is. But right now, in a campaign season during which the Republican party has made white supremacy and Islamophobia central to its platform, this controversy around a wonderful interview of an awesome Muslim woman demands a response.

Sept. 27 2016 12:54 AM

At the First Presidential Debate, Hillary Proves She’s Got This

When Democrats started panicking in the fall of 2008, a popular meme emerged showing a steely-faced Barack Obama and the words “Everyone chill the fuck out, I got this!” It spoke to liberals’ admiration, at times bordering on awe, for his temperament, his deep, abiding steadiness. Most people don’t think of Hillary Clinton that way, but maybe we should. The Clinton who showed up to debate Donald Trump on Monday night is the same woman who remained wryly unruffled during 11 hours of Republican grilling over Benghazi—an endurance test she reminded viewers of during a heated exchange about “stamina.” Once again, her discipline and composure were uncanny. She is the only thing standing between us and the civic abattoir of a Trump presidency, and for 90 minutes she showed herself up to the job.

In retrospect, it seems obvious that she would best the impulsive, ignorant Trump, but before the debate that outcome was far from clear. At the start, I was so nervous I could barely watch; the pressure on her must have been beyond comprehension. A woman who evokes profound anxiety in a great many Americans was set against a man who is basically a walking phallus—it was a psychosexual minefield. She had to debate a bullying professional performer without seeming either too robotic or too passionate. She had to correct Trump’s serial lies without appearing like a shrewish know-it-all. She had to parry Trump’s attempts to display raw dominance without betraying anger or aggression. She had to decide which of his lies, evasions, and slanders to press and which to let go, when the temptation to respond to each and every one must have been overwhelming. She had to have all her facts airtight. She had to not cough. She had to do it all in heels. And she did.

Clearly, Clinton got under Trump’s skin. She diminished the man who likes to be called “Mr. Trump” by continually referring to him as “Donald.” When she pointed out his history of stiffing the tradespeople who work for him, this was his response: “We used certain laws that are there and when Secretary Clinton talks about people that didn't get paid, first of all, they did get paid a lot, but taken advantage of the laws of the nation.” He demanded plaudits for opening a club in Palm Beach, Florida, that doesn’t practice illegal discrimination against black people or Muslims: “I have been given great credit for what I did.” He doubled down on his idiotic feud with Rosie O’Donnell: “I said very tough things to her and I think everybody would agree that she deserves it and nobody feels sorry for her.” It was immensely satisfying to see Clinton call Trump out on the “racist lie” of birtherism. She showed him for the small, nasty man he is.

Of course, people like me are not the ones Clinton needed to impress. There’s always something a little false about pundits deciding who won a debate, since winning means persuading people who pay so little attention to politics that they’re undecided at this stage of the campaign. Republican pollster Frank Luntz’s focus group of undecided voters, however, confirmed my impressions. As he tweeted, six of his participants thought Trump won. Sixteen thought Clinton did. “Hillary Clinton has learned how to bait Trump,” he tweeted. “He doesn't know how to not take it. Her attacks work. His defenses don't.” 

One can criticize aspects of Clinton’s performance. She started out a little shaky and could have used a much stronger populist economic message. Unlike Trump, she’s no entertainer and tended to step on her own zingers. “A man who can be provoked by a tweet should not have his fingers anywhere near the nuclear codes as far as I think anyone with any sense about this should be concerned,” she said at one point, a less pithy version of a line she used in July. But for once—instead of nitpicking everything that Clinton does, critiquing every modulation of her voice and expression on her face—let’s give her some credit for being so preternaturally poised at such a harrowing historical moment, when so many of us were freaking out just thinking about the stakes. This is still a terrifying time, but for now, it seems like she has everything under control.

Correction, Sept. 27, 2016: This piece originally attributed a tweet to Rudy Giuliani that was actually from a Rudy Giuliani parody account. That line has been deleted.

Sept. 26 2016 11:29 PM

Clinton Shaming Trump for His Alleged “Miss Piggy” Comment Was Maybe Her Best Moment


Near the end of Monday night’s first presidential debate, Hillary Clinton had one of her best moments of the night when she called out Donald Trump for his long history of horrible statements about women.



Debate moderator Lester Holt had asked Trump what he meant when he said that Clinton, the first major party nominee for president who is a woman, “doesn't have a presidential look.” Trump filibustered the question and failed to answer even as Holt attempted to press him on it.