The XX Factor
What Women Really Think

Oct. 25 2016 5:38 PM

The New York Giants Cut Admitted Abuser Josh Brown Because They Had To

The New York Giants have cut kicker Josh Brown from the team nearly a week after the National Football League reopened an investigation into his admitted history of domestic abuse.

Last week, after police released a series of damning documents from an alleged May 2015 assault against his then-wife, the NFL placed Brown on the commissioner’s exempt list, a kind of paid leave from the team. After Brown’s 2015 arrest, charges against him were dropped, and the NFL suspended him for a single game.

The league now claims it didn’t know the extent of Brown’s abuse until the release of last week’s documents: letters, journal entries, police reports, and emails that contain admissions of repeated attacks and Brown describing his delusion that his wife was his “slave.” That’s why NFL commissioner Roger Goodell reduced Brown’s boilerplate six-game suspension to a single day off. On Tuesday, Giants President John Mara said in a statement that team officials “believed we did the right thing at every juncture in our relationship with Josh,” but “our beliefs, our judgments, and our decisions were misguided. We accept that responsibility.”

Oct. 25 2016 4:00 PM

Young People Are Closing the Alcoholic Gender Gap

Younger generations are closing the gender gap in drinking habits, according to a new meta-analysis of data from 68 studies. The authors of the study, which published this week in the British Medical Journal, assembled drinking statistics from 1948 to 2014 and calculated the male-to-female ratios of alcohol consumption, excess alcohol use, and alcohol-related harm. Men born in the early 20th century were more than twice as likely as women to drink and three times as likely to “drink alcohol in ways suggestive of problematic use”; those born in the late 20th century are just 1.1 times as likely to drink at all and 1.2 times as likely to overdo it.

Oct. 25 2016 3:52 PM

Now That Katie Holmes and Jamie Foxx Have Reportedly Broken Up, a Theory About Who She Will Date Next

Though they never actually confirmed that they were together, Katie Holmes and Jamie Foxx have reportedly broken up. And because Katie Holmes only gets romantically involved with people who starred in the movie Collateral, it seems very clear exactly who the next person Holmes dates will be. Let me explain.

Holmes and Foxx always seemed like a strange pairing, and not just because they dated for three years while refusing to publicly acknowledge it. The relationship followed Holmes’ marriage to Tom Cruise, one of the most publicized and speculated about unions of the ’00s. When they first got married, it looked like Cruise and Holmes might be the next great A-list couple, a fixture on red carpets for years to come. But due to some combination of couch-jumping (or perception of couch-jumping), Scientology skepticism, and stalled careers, things did not go as planned. When the marriage ended, Holmes likely knew the next person she dated would make a big statement, and she had to choose carefully.

Oct. 25 2016 12:51 PM

Samantha Bee Schools Donald Trump on the Finer Points of Abortion Policy

Samantha Bee didn’t have to do much to make Donald Trump sound like a cruel ignoramus on Monday’s episode of Full Frontal. His remarks on abortion at last week’s presidential debate were so clueless and primitive, he all but wrote the jokes himself.

Oct. 25 2016 9:30 AM

Women Fight for Their Right to Wear Yoga Pants

A photo posted by Susan Walker (@foundbysusan) on

Over the past 20-odd years, women’s lives have improved in countless ways. We’ve elected more female politicians and world leaders than ever before. We’ve seen our wages rise steadily. And by God, we got yoga pants.

I sometimes wonder why we don’t throw yoga pants parades every day, to celebrate the miraculous stretchy garment that freed women once and for all from the constant struggle of having to choose between comfort (aka thoroughly unpresentable sweatpants) and style. If your ancestors who squeezed into corsets could see you now!

But no, it turns out it took someone threatening women’s right to wear yoga pants for the spandex throngs to come out in full force, prompting the world’s very first recorded yoga pants parade this weekend in Rhode Island.

This all started last week, when a man wrote in to the state’s Barrington Times to complain about women wearing yoga pants. “[T]here is something bizarre and disturbing about the appearance they make in public,” Alan Sorrentino wrote, especially for those “coping poorly with their weight or advancing age.” As a cultural observer, Sorrentino is late to the party, calling the “recent development” of yoga pants outside yoga studios “[t]he absolute worst thing to ever happen in women fashion” [sic]. Uh, Alan, this isn’t exactly a recent development—“athleisure” has been around for several years, and in case you haven’t heard, yoga pants and adult coloring books are pretty much propping up the American economy at this point. Sorrentino claims to have seen these infernal things worn at “weddings, funerals, shopping, and even for the workplace,” a statement whose accuracy I question just because there is little chance this rule-crazy, pants-banning man has ever attended an invitation-only social function.

Sorrentino did not state whether he had any objection to bloomers, the 19th-century trousers women wore in order to participate in the then-nascent bicycling craze. But I wouldn’t put it past him. Because Sorrentino’s issue was purely visual: Yoga pants do not look good on women over 20 years old, and Sorrentino believes he should not have to look at anything that doesn’t please his discerning senses. Seems to me that it would be equally logical to ask Sorrentino to look away, start wearing a paper bag on his head, or otherwise avert his eyes, but in his letter he suggests that women “grow up and stop wearing them in public.”

The letter was received poorly among the yoga pants–loving population of Barrington, the most ambitious of whom decided to organize a demonstration of yoga pants wearing right past Sorrentino’s house, to speak out against “[m]isogyny and the history of men policing women’s bodies.” Yes, yoga pants are awesome, but this is also about more than yoga pants. (In response, Sorrentino apparently hung a banner that read “free speech” outside.) Around 400 people participated in Sunday’s protest, many of them wearing leggings, thus bringing together the technically separate categories of yoga pants wearers and leggings wearers under the inclusive banner of comfy-pants solidarity.

I feel a little bad for Sorrentino, who admitted in his letter that he “struggle[s] with my own physicality as I age.” If only there was a garment out there that made him feel both fashionable and endlessly comfortable that he wouldn’t feel weird about wearing. Maybe that was part of the real problem here—the choice to wear yoga pants is one of the few freedoms women have that men don’t. And thankfully, it’s a freedom that can be exercised whether you’re breaking a sweat or engaging in a peaceful protest past some hater’s house.

Oct. 25 2016 8:30 AM

How Old Is Too Old for the HPV Vaccine?

All preteens should get vaccinated against human papillomavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many strains of HPV cause genital warts and several kinds of cancer; if people get the vaccine before they’re exposed to one of these strains through sexual activity, they have a better shot at avoiding cervical, anal, and oropharyngeal cancers.

But what about people who passed the upper age limit before the vaccine was ready or recommended? Health reporter Jake Harper of WFYI in Indianapolis writes that he only learned about HPV in college, at age 21, when his then-girlfriend got inoculated. At the time, the CDC hadn’t yet recommended the vaccine for boys. Though more U.S. men get oral cancers than women get cervical cancers, the vaccine was marketed toward girls as a cervical cancer prevention tool. When it was finally marketed to boys and their parents, it was mainly hailed as a way to prevent the spread of HPV to girls, who could get cervical cancer.

Harper, now 29, is scared that he’s at risk of developing a cancer he could have prevented with a vaccine. His fear was exacerbated by a recent ad campaign for Merck, which owns the Gardasil HPV vaccine, that features kids asking their parents why they didn’t get them vaccinated against cancer. But since he was older than the recommended age range and was already sexually active, he wondered if it was too late.

The CDC only recommends the vaccine for young women up to age 26 and young men up to age 21. (Men who have sex with men or who have compromised immune systems can get it through age 26.) Kids can start getting it as young as age 9, but it’s suggested for preteens aged 11 to 12, which is when it works best and can be lumped in with other necessary vaccinations. (It’s so effective at this young age that these adolescents only need two doses of the vaccine, rather than the originally recommended three.) At this stage, kids usually aren’t sexually active, so they’re unlikely to have been exposed to HPV.

But Harper found that the vaccine could still do him some good. While about 80 percent of sexually active people have been infected with some strain of HPV by age 45, more than 40 different strains of HPV can be spread through sexual contact. This means that not every person who’s contracted or spread HPV is dealing with the same viral strain. The latest iteration of Gardasil protects against just nine of the most common and high-risk types of HPV, but the chance of someone with an average number of sex partners encountering all nine by age 29 is small. Even if Harper has contracted HPV in the past without knowing it, he could still be at risk of contracting a different strain that might cause him cancer. The vaccine would mitigate some of that risk.

Since he’s outside the CDC’s guidelines for HPV vaccination, Harper must pay out of pocket for the shots; he writes that it’ll cost him nearly $400 for the three doses. Getting vaccinated may keep him from getting cancer. Perhaps more important, it’ll keep him from spreading HPV to his sex partners (and their sex partners, and their sex partners), which is the main goal of vaccination campaigns. With more studies on how the vaccine works in people over age 26, the CDC could find reason to recommend it for these older adults. But if parents would just vaccinate their kids instead of protesting HPV vaccination requirements, future adults won’t have to make this expensive decision.

Oct. 24 2016 6:05 PM

Shoppers Boycott Ivanka Trump’s Clothing Line to Protest Donald’s Misogyny

Throughout a presidential campaign defined by misogyny and prejudice, Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump has remained steadfastly by his size. As her father repeatedly made sexist remarks against women, she positioned herself as an advocate of women’s rights, championing the cause of working mothers.

Now one San Francisco woman is holding Ivanka to account. Shannon Coulter, the CEO of a communications agency, has called for a boycott of Ivanka Trump’s fashion line, the Ivanka Trump Collection, and she’s asking retailers who carry her products to break ties. Under the hashtag #GrabYourWallet—a reference to Trump’s infamous remarks in leaked Access Hollywood footage from 2005—Coulter’s movement has gone viral.

Oct. 24 2016 5:58 PM

New Jersey Legislature Passes Landmark Bill Strictly Limiting Solitary Confinement

The movement for solitary confinement reform scored a victory last Thursday when the New Jersey state legislature voted to strictly limit the use of solitary confinement in the state’s prisons. Under the new rules, correctional facilities would be barred from placing certain highly vulnerable populations—including pregnant women, LGBTQ people, and those with mental illnesses—in solitary. The bill mandates that solitary confinement be used only as a last resort; prohibits solitary confinement for more 15 consecutive days; and requires daily evaluations of prisoners in solitary. If signed into law, the measure will also ban the use of solitary for inmates age 21 and younger and 65 and older. It is one of the most progressive bills of its kind in the country.

Solitary confinement is torture. In a prison system that regularly dehumanizes and brutalizes inmates, “administrative segregation” stands out as one of the most egregious and unconscionable punishments regularly deployed by correctional facilities. Inmates in solitary are deprived of normal human interaction, which often leads to severe psychological disorders. Solitary confinement may heighten an inmate’s risk of suicide, yet paradoxically, suicidal inmates are often taken from the general prison population and put into solitary. Indeed, a high percentage of inmates in solitary suffered from mental illness before being placed in administrative segregation—illnesses that are exacerbated by near-total isolation and physical confinement. And some prisons have used solitary to punish women who report their rape and pregnant women with pregnancy-related depression.

Oct. 24 2016 5:37 PM

The AAP’s New Advice on SIDS Prevention Might Actually Make Parents’ Lives Easier

The American Academy of Pediatrics just updated its recommendations on how to create safe sleeping conditions for infants, and not only are they easy to follow, they could also save new parents money and time. While much of the advice is consistent with the AAP's previous set of recommendations, released in 2011, the latest includes new thinking on the ideal sleep environment for infants.

Currently, around 3,500 babies die in America each year of SIDS and sleep-related accidents, including strangulation and suffocation. SIDS is different from the latter, because it involves some internal mechanism, or combination of mechanisms, which stops children from breathing, as opposed to their breathing being obstructed by another object. Experts believe that by putting infants to sleep in environments that make it as easy as possible to breathe, these mechanisms are less likely to be triggered. The rate of SIDS dropped sharply in the 1990s, when pediatricians began recommending that infants sleep on their backs, but in recent years, progress in reducing sleep-related infant deaths has stalled.

The AAP now recommends that babies sleep in the same room, but not the same bed, as their parents, up to the age of 1. Doing so can decrease the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 percent compared with the current rate, making it safer than bed-sharing, or having the infant sleep in another room. Also, room-sharing, compared to bed-sharing, is less likely to lead to other causes of death— including suffocation, strangulation, and entrapment—while still allowing for the regular monitoring of the infant. While the AAP has found that room-sharing improves outcomes up to age of 1, they encourage parents to do it for at least for the first six months of a child's life, when SIDS is most likely to occur.

While a separate and close-by arrangement is ideal, the authors of the report acknowledge that infants need to eat in the middle of the night, and the person feeding the child is likely to be suffering from sleep deprivation. Therefore, the infant’s caretakers can’t necessarily be counted on to not pass out at some point during the feeding process, leaving the infant to sleep wherever the feeding took place. For the many tired new parents out there, the AAP has a few suggestions: Never feed the infant on a sofa or armchair. Instead, bring the baby into your bed, which you have stripped of pillows, loose sheets, or blankets.* This will not only make it less likely for the child to suffocate or overheat, but also—and this is my addition—make the parent far less comfortable and therefore less inclined to drift off to sleep. I also see this as an opportunity for the feeder’s partner (usually a mammary-gland-less man) to take more responsibility post-feedings. They could set an alarm for 30 minutes, or however long feedings take, after that initial cry and make sure mother and child are where they should be when the bell rings.

Other recommendations in the report, many of which are not new, include a ban on anything else in the crib, bassinet, or playpen, besides the child and a firm mattress. This means no bumpers, stuffed animals, pillows, or blankets. Children should always sleep supine, or on their backs. This makes them more likely to arouse, which, while not ideal for their zombie-eyed parents, “is an important protective physiologic response to stressors during sleep.” Once an infant can roll over to her stomach, she can be allowed to stay that way, though her parents should still put her to sleep on her back. Pacifier use can substantially reduce the risk of SIDS, ranging from 50 percent to 90 percent, and should be offered at naptime and bedtime. Lastly, children shouldn’t be left to sleep in car seats, bouncers, swings, strollers, or slings.

The report takes a firm stance against a lot of the baby safety items being sold to parents. Among the products they determine as either unsafe, unnecessary, or unproven are: anti-SIDS mattresses, bedside sleepers that are attached to the side of the parents’ bed, devices that are supposed to make bed-sharing safe, and home cardiorespiratory monitors.

While the report’s sole interest is in creating safer sleep environments for infants, it could, and should, have a secondary effect of getting parents to stop buying a lot of unnecessary crap. What we learn from this summary of studies written up by experts is that we need relatively little for children up until the age of 1, beyond a simple place to sleep in the corner of our bedroom. This means that not only are we investing a lot of unnecessary money, and a lot of unnecessary time, into those Pinterest-inspired nurseries stocked with all the latest “baby safety” technology, but that doing so could actually be hazardous to our babies’ health. Instead of spending on a lavishly decorated, state-of-the-art nursery, parents would be better off squirreling away that money for childcare.

* Correction, Oct. 24, 2016: Because of an editing error, the conditions in which a baby can be fed in bed were originally presented in an imprecise fashion: The bed should be stripped of loose sheets, but fitted sheets are fine. The photograph at the top of the post was also replaced to show an approved sleeping position.

Oct. 24 2016 4:53 PM

Can Donating to Charity Assuage Cubs Fans’ Guilt About Rooting for Aroldis Chapman?

Sports fans who don’t want to support abusive men have long had to make ethical compromises to stand by their favorite teams. With the Chicago Cubs on their way to their first World Series in 71 years, fans concerned about relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman’s history of domestic violence are trying to channel their conflicted feelings into good works.

The Cubs haven’t won the World Series since 1908, making their fan base desperate for a win this year. The team acquired Chapman, the hardest-throwing pitcher in baseball by far, from the New York Yankees midway through the season; he’s a major reason why the Cubs are the closest they’ve been to a championship title in seven decades. According to a police report from almost exactly a year ago, he also once fired eight gunshots in his garage while his girlfriend hid in the bushes, after allegedly choking her and pushing her into a wall.

In August, Cubs lover Caitlin Swieca told the New York Times that she faced a “moral dilemma” between “the feeling of wanting to just watch a game and not let the domestic violence thing bother you, and the feeling of not wanting to let the domestic violence issue just fade into the background.” She decided to donate $10 to an advocacy organization for survivors of domestic violence every time Chapman recorded a “save.”

In association with Chicago’s Domestic Violence Legal Clinic, Swieca is urging others to join her fundraising efforts, using the hashtag #pitchin4DV. She started out intending to raise $11,000, 0.1 percent of Chapman’s yearly pay, but donors surpassed that goal so quickly that it was raised to $25,000. Supporters have contributed nearly $20,000 so far.

Many Cubs followers have responded with gratitude to Swieca’s scheme, which will probably do more tangible good than any individual’s boycott of Major League Baseball would. One woman decided to auction off her Cubs paraphernalia to raise more money for the DVLC. “I could be petty and cut these things into pieces, but I’d rather raise money for a good cause,” she tweeted. Another fan thanked Swieca for coming up with a plan that let him enjoy the season in spite of Chapman’s place on the roster. Someone who follows the Yankees has promised to donate money for every save Chapman recorded in his few months on that team. After the Cubs beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in a blowout on Saturday night, propelling them to the World Series, Swieca encouraged followers of the pitchin4DV Twitter account to donate in honor of the big win, even though Chapman didn’t technically earn a save.

Chapman served a 30-game suspension without pay under the league’s domestic violence policy, costing him about one-sixth of his annual salary. He was never charged with a crime, but the way he’s diminished his episode of violence has alarmed observers. The Spanish-speaking pitcher, who communicates through an interpreter, has claimed he was too tired to remember what was said during his one conversation with Cubs officials about the incident, and he has said the press “made a small thing into a scandal.” “Sometimes a person just wants to move on, forget things, continue their career,” he said. “They want to go back. I just want to go forward.” Major League Baseball didn’t investigate or make mention of Chapman’s alleged domestic assault until Yahoo reported the details. The league only demanded that he attend one counseling session and give two interviews to a psychologist, leading some to question its commitment to an abuse-free culture.

Chapman’s is just one of several cases of violence against women Chicago sports fans have had to confront in recent seasons. According to the Times, that may be one reason why it’s causing long-suffering Cubs followers so much agita:

The issue may resonate more in Chicago than in other cities because it has been a recurring one with prominent athletes here. The Blackhawks star Patrick Kane was named the NHL’s reigning most valuable player in June less than a year after he was cleared of rape charges in a polarizing case. Derrick Rose, the former Bulls star, has been accused of coercing a former girlfriend into group sex, which he denies. Last year, the Bears signed Ray McDonald—who had been cut by San Francisco after a series of domestic violence episodes—only to release him two months later after he was arrested after another such event. [Note: Rose was later found "not liable."] 

But the particular circumstances of the Cubs—the team’s 108 years without a World Series win, its dependence on Chapman to come in and nail the last few outs in a close game—make Chapman the most gut-twisting character of them all. To root for the Cubs right now is to root for the fulfillment of a century-long dream; it’s also to boost the career of a man who’s shown no remorse for shooting a gun to threaten his girlfriend. Swieca’s voluntary anti–domestic-violence tax will help assuage the guilt of decent-minded fans who want their grandparents to see the Cubs triumph before they die. It won’t keep Chapman from abusing women, but it may help women get justice against men like him who aren’t famous enough to inspire citywide outrage.