The XX Factor
What Women Really Think

May 20 2016 8:33 AM

The Debate Over Screen Time Is Really About Moms, Not Kids

As with so many hot-button issues in modern parenting, the controversy surrounding screen time often has more to do with mothers than with children. There is no scientific evidence that watching TV or playing with tablets is inherently bad for children over the age of two. (And maybe not even for those under two.) Nevertheless, many mothers speak about letting their children stare at screens in either conspiratorial or resigned tones, the unspoken message being: I’m just not a great mom. Other mothers, like Mutha magazine’s Katie Trostam, avoid talking about screen time with other parent altogether, as it’s the only way to avoid the alternating layers of sanctimony and guilt that often tarnish such exchanges.

In a recent essay on JSTOR Daily, technology writer Alexandra Samuel takes aim at screen time as bogeyman, making the case that its demonization has its roots in a not-always-conscious anti-feminist bias. Samuels talks about the undeniable convenience of television and gadgets for parents who sometimes need a break to make dinner, take a work call or, heaven forbid, just relax. She then goes on to point out that, historically speaking, innovations that give mothers more autonomy and access to the public sphere have always been met with suspicion. “[O]ur anxiety about making mothers’ work easier is rooted in our profound reservations about liberating women from the demands of the home,” Samuel writes.

May 19 2016 5:23 PM

Oklahoma’s Bill to Make Abortion a Felony Is a Stupid Gambit the State Can’t Afford

Oklahoma’s legislature passed a bill on Thursday to make the provision of abortion a felony in the state. Lawmakers in most red states are at least nominally surreptitious in their efforts to undermineRoe v. Wade, claiming that their foremost concern is protecting women’s health and arguing that their policies are compatible with the right to abortion. But Oklahoma has dispensed with any pretense of obeying federal law. “Give Oklahoma lawmakers points, at least, for honesty,” the New York Times’ editorial board wrote recently. “They wanted to ban abortion, so they voted effectively to do just that.” 

Republican Governor Mary Fallin hasn’t commented on whether she will sign S.B. 1552, under which any doctor caught performing an abortion would be stripped of his or her medical license, disqualified from applying for a new one in the state, and sentenced to up to three years in prison. The bill would only make exceptions when a pregnancy endangered a woman’s life; abortions in cases of rape and incest, or to protect a woman’s health in non-life-threatening situations, would all be illegal. Fallin also has a second abortion-related bill on her desk: H.B. 3128, which would ban women from seeking abortions for reasons of fetal anomaly.

May 19 2016 3:41 PM

Alexis Bledel and Vincent Kartheiser’s Child Is Part of Hollywood’s Secret-Baby Boom

Hollywood is a competitive place, where everyone always wants to be richer, thinner, and tanner than the next person. The latest contest? Who can keep their baby the most hidden from the prying eyes of paparazzi and the American public.

Vincent Kartheiser and Alexis Bledel just lapped the rest of the celebrity entrants on the secret-childbearing track with the revelation that they had a son last fall. Us Weekly confirmed on Wednesday that the couple—who have repeatedly ignored a certain admiring Slate staffer’s requests to be adopted by them, but whatever—are now parents, after Bledel’s Gilmore Girls co-star Scott Pattersonlet it slip to Glamour that Bledel, whom he first met when she was a teenager, is now “a proud new mother.”

May 19 2016 2:17 PM

You Really Must Read Adrian Grenier’s Captivating Essay About His Empathy for Whales

Adrian Grenier is best known as the star of the mid-2000s HBO bro-fest Entourage. But the luxuriously tressed actor wants you to know he is nothing like the hard-partying young superstar he played on that show. “While my character, Vincent Chase, indulged in the extravagant Hollywood lifestyle, offscreen, I’d always preferred more intimate dinner parties surrounded by close friends,” Grenier writes in an astonishing essay published Wednesday on Refinery29. “Not too long ago, I invited a few people over for a casual evening. Our conversations are usually intellectual, creative, and invariably, devolve into humorous stories.” 

How could you fail to take Grenier seriously when he appreciates intimate dinner parties, intellectual conversations, and “humorous stories”? Truly, this anecdote hints at a unique, profound voice. And Grenier isn’t just using his voice to talk about his enviable dinner parties—he is using it to talk to, and for, whales. 

May 18 2016 5:35 PM

South Carolina Pro-Lifers Just Passed a Ban on Abortion at 20 Weeks—and They’re Not Done Yet

South Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature voted late Tuesday night to pass a bill banning abortion at 20 weeks post-fertilization. The rationale for the bill, which Governor Nikki Haley has indicated that she will sign, is the scientifically baseless claim that fetuses develop the ability to feel pain at 20 weeks’ gestation. Though the science is bad, this claim’s effectiveness as a piece of rhetoric has been staggering: South Carolina will be the 17th state in the country to implement such a law.

Banning abortions at this point in pregnancy can have particularly tragic consequences, as Alyssa Miller of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic said in a statement. “The reality is that abortion later in pregnancy is extremely rare and often takes place in complex and difficult situations where a woman and her doctor need every medical option available,” she said. Miller is referring to the fact that many of the most severe and life-altering birth defects first become apparent on a sonogram at roughly 20 weeks. South Carolina’s law does not permit exceptions in cases of rape and incest; the only loopholes exist when a woman’s life is in danger, or when a defect would render the fetus unable to survive outside the womb.

May 18 2016 3:30 PM

Trump Says Everyone Misunderstood His Quote About Punishing Women for Abortion. Yeah, Right.

Donald Trump is not sorry, but also, he didn’t say what you thought he said. You definitely heard wrong! You’re the one who should apologize.

This is the tack the presumptive GOP presidential nominee is taking on the statement that riled Democrats and Republicans alike in March: that women who seek abortions should receive “some form of punishment.” In an interview with the New York Times Magazine’s Robert Draper published online on Wednesday, Trump—“rather unconvincingly,” according to Draper—argued that he was misunderstood yet again by the dopey media. “I didn’t mean punishment for women like prison,” he said. “I’m saying women punish themselves. I didn’t want people to think in terms of ‘prison’ punishment. And because of that I walked it back.” 

May 18 2016 2:49 PM

Americans Are Filing More Lawsuits Alleging Caregiver Discrimination. Here’s Why.

New research from the University of California, Hastings’ Center for WorkLife Law finds a 269 percent increase in lawsuits alleging family responsibilities discrimination in the last decade, compared to the previous decade. These findings are detailed in a new report by Cynthia Thomas Calvert, which looks at which types of cases have become more common and how the growing number of caregivers who called foul fared in their attempts to seek justice.

Two-thirds of these cases involved pregnancy and maternity leave. Pregnancy accommodation cases increased by 315 percent, a number that’s surprising when you consider that such discrimination has been illegal since 1978. Lawsuits over breastfeeding also spiked by 800 percent, though the total number of these cases remains small.

May 18 2016 8:30 AM

Republicans Really Need to Stop Withholding Zika Funding

It’s almost tempting to believe that congressional Republicans have stopped reading the news about Zika, the mosquito-borne virus that can cause the severe birth defect microcephaly. If they’ve been keeping informed, it would seem that only unmitigated disregard for the health of pregnant women—and for their gestating fetuses, usually such highly valued GOP constituents—could explain the plans that conservatives on Capitol Hill put forward this week. 

The scale of the problem came through loud and clear in Tuesday’s Morning Edition interview with Tom Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in which Frieden called Zika “an unprecedented situation.” “Never before have we seen a mosquito-borne infection that could result in a serious birth defect,” he said. The U.S., he warned, needs to start protecting pregnant women from Zika—for economic reasons as well as humane ones. “In addition to the personal tragedy, we're told by our experts that every one of these birth defects can have a cost of more than $10 million per lifetime.”

To recap briefly: In April, the CDC told the public that Zika is “scarier than we initially thought.” As of last month, 570 people in Puerto Rico, including 48 pregnant women, had contracted the disease, and doctors along the Gulf Coast—the part of the U.S. likely to be affected first—were advising pregnant and would-be pregnant women to take extra precautions. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has said he expects limited outbreaks in the U.S. this summer—a prospect made more worrisome by the wildly uneven resources and level of preparation for fighting Zika at the local level. As Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine, wrote recently in the New York Times: “If I were a pregnant woman living on the Gulf Coast or in Florida, in an impoverished neighborhood in a city like Houston; New Orleans; Miami; Biloxi, Mississippi; or Mobile, Alabama, I would be nervous right now.”

The White House has said it needs $1.9 billion to effectively protect Americans from Zika. Friedensaid Tuesday that that budget would cover developing a vaccine and better diagnostic tools, containing the relevant strain of mosquito, running multiyear studies of Zika-infected women “to understand what the range of complications is and work to reduce that,” and more.

Unfortunately, Republicans made it clear this week that the administration is not getting its hands on all of those much-needed funds—or, at least, not any time soon.

First, on Monday, House Republicans unveiled a plan to reallocate $622 million from other federal health programs—much of it from the government’s Ebola budget—and put it toward the fight against Zika. The White House had already responded to Congress’ refusal to grant emergency funds by redirecting more than $500 million from its Ebola response. “We need to return that money so we can protect Americans against Ebola,” Frieden warned on NPR. “We can't get confused and let our guard down against one threat to fight the next one.” Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest compared the task facing public health officials with “the bureaucratic equivalent of digging through the sofa cushions to try and come up with the necessary money.”

The Senate voted Tuesday evening to pass a larger budget for the Zika response—though that, too, fell considerably short of the White House’s request. The bipartisan bill, advanced by Republican Roy Blunt and Democrat Patty Murray, would give the White House $1.1 billion to work with. But that number could be shaved down further when the House and Senate try to reach a compromise on their differing bills. “[W]e are sending a very clear message to the House Republicans,” Murray said in a statement Tuesday night. “[W]hen it comes to public health emergencies like Zika, robbing Peter to pay Paul just isn’t enough. I urge House Republicans to drop their irresponsible, partisan legislation and ensure the Senate bill gets to the President’s desk without delay.”

In the meantime, mosquito season is upon us. On Morning Edition, Frieden urged pregnant women to avoid areas where Zika is likely to spread and urged their sexual partners to use condoms if there’s a chance that they’ve been exposed to the virus. As for Americans who live in Southern states? “We're really working intensively with health departments and environmental departments to track cases and reduce that risk,” he said. “And for that, additional resources are very important.”

Correction, May 18, 2016: This article originally misspelled the name of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden.

May 17 2016 3:39 PM

Insights From the Spiritual Autobiography of Khloé Kardashian

For a family often charged with provoking the end of Western civilization, the Kardashians have always been surprisingly religious. Matriarch Kris Jennerhand-picked the pastor for the family’s evangelical church in Los Angeles, Kim has said has said she tithes 10 percent of her income, and the family is oftenphotographed attending Sunday services together.

Now, Khloé Kardashian has shared the story of her own religious journey in a 1,000-word essay published in Lena Dunham’s newsletter, Lenny. Titled “My Relationship With Spirituality,” it’s a revealing text for observers of both the Kardashians and of contemporary American religious practice.

May 17 2016 2:57 PM

All the Gory Details Of Trump’s Attack on Megyn Kelly

Tuesday night, Megyn Kelly will sit down for a one-hour conversation with the man who has called her “crazy,” “sick,” “overrated,” and a “lightweight” journalist—we're speaking, of course, about Donald Trump. For the Fox News anchor, arranging a détente with the candidate who has spent the last year trolling her on Twitter and insulting her in other outlets is a canny way to ensure a blockbuster kick-off for her new series of long-form interviews, “Megyn Kelly Presents.” (She’ll also be talking toMichael Douglas and Laverne Cox, among others, in the upcoming installments of her special, modeled on Barbara Walters’ classic “Most Fascinating People” series.) For voters, the interview is a chance to see if Trump can rein in his sexist vitriol in a moment that seems staged to test just that.

But wait. How did these two get here? Trump’s attacks on Kelly have punctuated a presidential campaign of unprecedented histrionics—understandably, many of us have lost track of the various twists and turns in the hubbub of the Donald’s manyother feuds. So that we can all enjoy every bit of awkward subtext in an interview that Kelly has predicted will leave people “feeling a little uncomfortable,” here’s a play-by-play of the long-running beef.

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